None of the persons excluded from Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) to be published on August 31 will be immediately put in detention centres, a senior government official said.
The official clarified that any decision would be taken only after the excluded applicants have exhausted all legal options, like the Foreigners Tribunals (FTs), the High Court and the Supreme Court.
He said a section of the foreign press has created unnecessary hype around the NRC through incorrect reports that millions would lose citizenship in Assam once the final list is published on August 31.
By September 1, as many as 200 FTs will be operational in Assam. A 100 already exist. In all, the MHA has sanctioned 1,000 FTs that will come up in phases, said another official.
Since 1985, when Foreigners Tribunals were first set up in Assam, till February 28 this year, as many as 63,959 persons were declared foreigners through ex parte proceedings or one-sided judgments. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has already amended the Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019 that empowers individuals to approach the FT, as earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect,
The MHA had earlier clarified that those whose names were excluded in the NRC would not automatically be declared foreigners as they would be given adequate opportunity to present their case before the FTs. The time limit to appeal before the FTs is also being increased from 60 to 120 days.
Asked what will happen when a person is declared a foreigner after exhausting all legal options, the official said, “We will go step by step. This is not the immediate concern, it’s a hypothetical question. The persons who have been excluded will get 120 days to appeal. Since 1985, when Foreigners Tribunals were first set up in Assam, till February 28 this year, as many as 63,959 persons were declared foreigners through ex parte proceedings before the FTs,” the official said.
The register, first published in Assam in 1951, to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971 is being updated as per the directions of the Supreme Court. 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. Around four lakh persons excluded from the draft NRC list have not appealed before the authorities.
“The State government will move FTs on behalf of the four lakh people who have not filed an appeal against their exclusion. The case will be tried in the FTs first, which will decide if they are foreigners or not. No one is immediately being sent to detention centres, it is not practical,” said another official.
There are six detention centres in Assam and at least 10 more are all set to come up in future.