The State Coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has reminded members of Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) across Assam to not consider the draft NRC and its supplementary list as reliable evidence for the disposal of cases.
A Foreigners’ Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body tasked with deciding the status of citizenship of people suspected to be or marked as foreigners. An FT member is like a judge.
Hitesh Dev Sarma, the State Coordinator, had on April 18 issued letters to the FT members. “Since the Registrar General of Citizens Registration (RGCR) has not declared NRC as final and there are errors, things may change when the final NRC gets published,” he wrote.
About 19.06 lakh out of 3.3 crore applicants were excluded from the complete NRC draft published on August 31, 2019.
An FT member, declining to be quoted, responded to Mr Sarma’s letter on May 10, insisting that the NRC was final and was published in compliance with various orders and judgements of the Supreme Court and through a notification of the RGCR.
He cited Clause 7 of the Citizenship Rules of 2003 and a press statement by former State Coordinator Prateek Hajela on August 31, 2019, “whereby it was clear that the published NRC is the final NRC”.
The member also said the NRC lists (draft, additional draft and supplementary list) are mentioned as final NRC on the official website.
Saying the “final NRC published under the supervision of the Supreme Court and notification of RGCR” is not final was in contrast with the available records and orders of the top court, the FT member said.
Adding that the State Coordinator “cannot propagate his wrong understanding of law, rules, notifications and orders of the Supreme Court”, the member advised him to “withdraw his letter and stop interfering in the lawful functioning of the Foreigners’ Tribunals which is beyond your jurisdiction and limits of power”.
Mr. Sarma said he has not received the letter yet.
“Only the RGI (Registrar General of India) and Hajela is authorised to publish the final NRC, which is yet to be done. The Supreme Court asked Hajela to publish the supplementary list of inclusions and exclusions, not the final NRC. Some FT members have been giving judgements claiming the NRC as final,” Mr. Sarma told The Hindu on Sunday.
In September 2021, an FT member in southern Assam’s Karimganj district declared a doubtful migrant as Indian while observing that members of his family figured in the “final NRC”.