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A Baffling Catch-22 Situation and Long-drawn Legal Battle Awaits Those Excluded From Final NRC List

The right to pass a verdict on someone’s citizenship now lies within the ambit of Foreigners' Tribunal, a quasi-judicial body set up to solve matters of dubious citizenship.

Pranjal Baruah | News18

Updated:September 1, 2019, 10:12 AM IST
A Baffling Catch-22 Situation and Long-drawn Legal Battle Awaits Those Excluded From Final NRC List
People to check their names on the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Kamrup on Saturday (PTI)

Guwahati: Saturday morning could not bring any joy to Shankar Roy from Dibrugarh, who was left stunned when he could not find his own and those of his two children in the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list. Roy had submitted all his documents carefully and also attended the NRC hearings twice last year and was hopeful that he and his family would clear the citizenship test.

“The NRC authority wanted some additional documents to support my claims and I had produced documents of my father serving in OIL India dated back to 1969. But my name is still not there. I don’t know why,” said a dejected Roy.

Multiple such instances have come to surface since the publication of the final list on Saturday morning where the applicants’ claims were rejected most likely due to some technical reasons. One incumbent and former legislator of Assam did not make it through the NRC either. The names of former AIUDF legislator from Katigorah, Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuiya, and current legislator from south, Abhayapuri Ananta Kumar Malo, along with his son, were excluded.

“It is surprising that name of one of my daughters has been incorporated while my other daughter, son and I have been left out of the list. I now have to face the Foreigners' Tribunal (FT), but I believe in the judiciary and hope to get justice,” Mazarbhuiya said.

The right to pass a verdict on someone’s citizenship now lies within the ambit of FTs, a quasi-judicial body set up to solve matters of dubious citizenship. The state has prepared some 300 FTs for receiving the claims from those who want to challenge the NRC list and claim their Indian identity. 700 more FTs are on the way.

Those excluded can also approach the Gauhati High Court or even the Supreme Court in case they are dissatisfied with the response of the Foreigners' Tribunals.

Advocate Shahjahan Ali, an FT court lawyer from Barpeta, said, “First, a claimant has to start by collecting the certified rejection order from the NRC authorities citing why his or her claim has been rejected. Then, according to that, the claimant needs to prepare his documents.”

An applicant, however, has to do it within the deadline of 120 days.

The Supreme Court had earlier allowed 15 documents as eligible for establishing the presence of the applicant or an ancestor in Assam before 1971. Apart from the 1951 NRC, voter lists up to March 24, 1971, citizenship certificates, refugee registration certificates and ration cards issued prior to March 24, 1971, the apex court allowed other papers such as land documents, permanent residential certificate issued from outside the state, passport, insurance policy, any licence or certificate issued by any government authority, document showing service or employment under government or Public Sector Undertakings; bank or post office accounts; birth certificates issued by the competent authority; educational certificate issued by boards or universities, and records or processes pertaining to the court, provided they are part of processing in a judicial or revenue court.

Ali added, “The paperwork and collection of certified copies for someone who is not listed in the NRC is going to be very difficult. If a claimant doesn’t have a certified copy of his supporting documents, he will not be issued a fresh certificate by the authorities till his name is cleared from the list. It’s a catch-22 situation.”

He added that in some cases, the appellant might need to take the RTI route to collect relevant documents which may be time-consuming. “All documents have to be certified. Moreover, the issuing authority has to come in person to give witness and authenticate the certificate. Gathering of witnesses to support one’s claim is another mammoth task,” the lawyer added.

Ali also pressed the importance of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the disposal of claims in the FTs. “If there is no SOP, it will be chaotic to dispose of all these cases. Moreover, the apex court should also monitor the disposals of these cases,” he highlighted.

During the hearings of re-verification of NRC before the publication of the final list, many were also asked to appear after discrepancies discovered while scrutinising their names. Each NRC applicant had to establish his or her family tree so that they are not linked with the wrong legacy person.

On Saturday, releasing the final data, NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela said, “The process of NRC update in Assam differs from the rest of the country and is governed by Rule 4A and the corresponding Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. These rules were framed as per the cut-off date of the midnight of March 24, 1971, enshrined in the Assam Accord of 1985. Verification was also carried out of persons included in the draft NRC under Clause 4(3) of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003,” he said.

In Assam, a total of 3, 30, 27,661 members applied through 68, 37,660 applications. The particulars submitted by the applicants were taken up for scrutiny to determine the eligibility of their inclusion in the NRC.

Meanwhile, various humanitarian groups, lawyers as well as both ruling and opposition parties have extended help to the claimants for their legal process in the coming days.

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