Siblings of ‘declared foreigners’ won’t be in Assam NRC, says high court
Family members of persons who have been declared foreigners will not be part of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) being updated in Assam, the Gauhati High Court ruled on Friday.
What the ruling means is that the names of those siblings and family members (of ‘declared foreigners’) who have been referred to the foreigners tribunals in the state to ascertain if they are genuine Indian citizens will not be included in the updated NRC.
A two-judge bench of the Gauhati high court on Friday dismissed a writ petition challenging the validity of a May 2 directive by NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela, that the names of siblings and family members of declared foreigners be kept on hold and not included in the NRC till the cases are decided by the foreigners tribunals.
The second and complete final draft of the NRC, which is scheduled to come out on June 30, may get delayed because the floods in parts of Assam, especially in the Barak Valley, have stalled the exercise. The first draft of the NRC, which came out on January 1, included 1.9 crore names of the 3.29 crore people who applied.
The May 2 order, which followed a Gauhati High Court order of May 2, 2017, had caused considerable anxiety among people, even leading to speculation that a large number of them may be left out of the NRC.
However, Hajela, in a May 25 directive, clarified that only those individuals (siblings and family members of declared foreigners) will be kept on hold after receipt of information from the border police that reference has already been made to the foreigners tribunal.
According to a top official of the Assam Police’s Border Branch, who spoke on condition of anonymity, “this number is miniscule” as the cops scramble to look for declared foreigners and their relatives following the High Court order.
Official estimates say about 90,000 individuals have been declared foreigners over the years. However, a sizeable number have since gone missing. Earlier this month, a senior NRC official who did not want to be named had said that the authorities have so far been able to identify 4,288 foreigners during the verification process.
“Although our petition has been dismissed, we are happy that the government and the NRC authorities clarified on the May 25 directive. The May 2 directive could have been misused and there were all kinds of rumours,” said Shamsul Alam Hussain, the lawyer of petitioner Azizul Haque.