As NRC deadline nears, Assam looks to form 400 more tribunals
The Assam government has set in motion the process of increasing the number of foreigners’ tribunals (FTs) to 500 from the current 100 in the next six months as the deadline for the updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC), aimed at weeding out illegal immigrants, comes to a close.
The additional FTs, which are quasi-judicial bodies, will exclusively deal with NRC appeals and references, officials said on Thursday. The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the NRC update exercise, has set the July 31 deadline to complete the list of citizens in Assam.
“As decided 200 more foreigners tribunals will be established by September 1 and another 200 in the subsequent three months,” said Ashutosh Agnihotri, commissioner, and secretary, home, and political department, adding that ~500 crore has been approved by the Centre for the setting up of new FTs. Agnihotri said those whose name do not figure in the NRC list, which will be published on or before July 31, can appeal at the tribunals where they will have to prove that they are Indian citizens. The state government aims to increase the number of tribunals to 1,100 in a phased manner. On June 10, the Gauhati high court, which monitors the working of the FTs and is responsible for the selection of their members, gave out an advertisement inviting applications.
According to the eligibility criteria, an applicant “will have to have a fair knowledge of the official language of Assam and its historical background giving rise to foreigners’ issue”.
Once selected by the high court, the members will be appointed by the state government. Around 4 million people were excluded from the NRC draft published on July 30, 2018. Of them, around 3.8 lakh people who did not file claims for inclusion will be referred to the foreigners’ tribunals by the state government, which will then adjudicate if these persons are illegal immigrants or genuine citizens, according to the officials.
The state government asked the office of the state coordinator of the NRC for details of those who have not filed claims but the information has not been shared yet, Agnihotri said.