Pleas seek change in NRC procedure
An Assam-based non-government organisation (NGO) has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a “standard operating procedure”, or SOP, for adjudication of appeals filed by people excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam with the Foreigners Tribunals.
The final NRC — a list aimed at identifying and weeding out illegal immigrants in Assam from citizenship rolls — published on August 31 dropped over 1.9 million people out of 31.1 million applicants.
The petition filed by Brahmaputra Valley Civil Society makes out a case for allowing people not included in the NRC to produce new legacy documents before Foreigners Tribunals, which are quasi- judicial bodies empowered to determine whether a person is an Indian or a foreigner, according to provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946, and Foreigners Tribunal Order, 1964.
The NGO claims that the SOP will offer a provision to rectify the legacy data as errors had crept in because of confusion created by a large number of identical names. It says many people had by mistake produced incorrect legacy data, and when they tried to replace it with the correct data, they hadn’t been permitted to do so.
“This has given rise to the exclusion of genuine citizens. The mistake in the identification of ancestors was due to the illiteracy of the claimants combined with a lack of checking facilities available at the NSKs [NRC Seva Kendras] where only digital versions were available and there were no printed copies available for checking. As a result of the confusion created by a large number of identical and similar names, some mistakes took place in the identification of ancestors,” the petition reads.
The petition, which is yet to be taken up for hearing, argues that the top court should frame an SOP, like the one laid down by the central government in consultation with the state NRC coordinator for disposal of claims and objections related to the final NRC list.
The petition also stresses that people who had been excluded from the NRC must be given a certified copy of the rejection order within 15 days, and the period of limitation for filing an appeal should be effective from the date of receipt of the certified copy of the NRC order.
The petition says, “It is very important to specify a time-bound and expeditious procedure for the adjudication of the appeals. For example, the cases of the “D voters” [ doubtful voters] numbering approximately 1.25 lakhs are yet to be disposed of by the Foreigners Tribunals even though these claims are pending from 1997.”
It also says that around 300 Foreigners Tribunals, set up by the Assam government, are expected to start operating from September 1, and if the SOP was not settled, there would be lack of uniformity in the functioning of the tribunals.