As the August 31 deadline for the final publication of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) nears, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Tuesday that “non-inclusion of a person’s name in the NRC does not by itself amount to him/her being declared as a foreigner” as they would be given adequate opportunity to present their case before the Foreigners Tribunals (FTs). The time limit to appeal before the FTs is also being increased from 60 to 120 days.
Home Minister Amit Shah had reviewed the NRC process with Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and other senior officials on Monday.
The Ministry in its statement said, “It was decided that in order to facilitate the persons excluded from the NRC, adequate arrangements will be made by the State government to provide full opportunity to appeal against their non-inclusion. Every individual, whose name does not figure in the final NRC, can represent his/her case in front of the appellate authority, i.e. Foreigners Tribunals. Under the provisions of the Foreigners Act 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964, only Foreigners Tribunals are empowered to declare a person as a foreigner. Thus, non-inclusion of a person’s name in the NRC does not by itself amount to him/her being declared as a foreigner.”
It said that State government would also “make arrangements to provide legal aid to the needy people amongst those excluded from the NRC.” Adequate number of such tribunals was being established at convenient locations.
“As it may not be possible for all those excluded from final NRC to file the appeal within the prescribed time, MHA will amend the rules to increase the present time limit of filing of appeals in FTs from 60 days to 120 days regarding exclusion from final NRC. The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 are also being amended accordingly,” the statement said.
In order to maintain law and order situation, central security forces were being provided as per assessment of the Assam government, the MHA said.
The register, first published in Assam in 1951, is being updated as per the directions of the Supreme Court. It is a list to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
The Supreme Court has, in the past fortnight, twice rejected the State’s and the Home Ministry’s plea for re-verification. Around 41 lakh people have been excluded from the draft lists published in July 2018 and June this year. Around 36 lakh have filed claims against their exclusion and objections have been filed against two lakh inclusions. The hearing of these claims and objections are under way.