Guwahati, Oct 22: The much-hyped National Register of Citizens (NRC) has been in limbo since 2019 after the final draft of citizens was published on August 31 that year. At least 19.06 lakh people were kept off this draft list, creating uncertainty over their fate.
To enable individuals, who were excluded, to appeal the decision at the Foreigners' Tribunals, rejection slips have yet not been given to them. The people whose names were left off of the new list have since been frantically scrambling to get their names included as doubt surrounds their future.
The original document was created in 1951 using information from the first census conducted in independent India.
Around 1.08 lakh of the 19.06 lakh people who were excluded from the final draft are D-voters (doubtful voters). The NRC authority states that D-voters can apply to have their names added to the updated NRC.
A D-voter's name will, however, only be included in the NRC after receiving approval from the Foreigners' Tribunals and after their names have been removed from the electoral record as D-voters.
The members who were earlier appointed to the 200 additional Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) to primarily handle cases related to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) were sacked by the Assam government this year.
A Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) is a quasi-judicial body, and a member of the FT has a designation similar to that of a judge.
In addition to 100 regular FTs, the Assam government appointed practicing lawyers, retired civil servants, and judicial officers for the additional 200 FTs soon after the complete draft NRC was published in August 2019.
These additional FTs were believed to deal with the cases of 19.06 lakh people who were left out of the NRC list.
The irked members approached the Supreme Court over the decision of the Assam government. The state government asserted that the 200 members appointed to the foreigner’s tribunal have no work, and hence they have been relieved of their duties.
The engagement was on a purely temporary basis, and therefore there is no complicity in discontinuing their services. The state government even claimed that they had received a nod from the central government about the discontinuation of the services of 200 FT members.
Recently, the apex court accepted the state government’s version and disposed of the petition of sacked FT members.
On the other hand, the BJP government has been demanding that the names in the final draft of the NRC be re-verified in 20 per cent of the bordering districts and 10 per cent of the remaining districts.
Assam Minister Jayanta Malla Baruah stated that the state administration and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sought to verify the current NRC because a number of errors occurred during the updating process.
“In the bordering districts, we demand a minimum of 20 per cent re-verification, and in other districts, 10 per cent re-verification. The current NRC should be verified, according to our administration and the BJP,” he remarked.
The Assam government has already filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court for a re-verification of the NRC.
The minister said, "I think the Supreme Court will study and analyze the entire situation. It would be beneficial for us if the Supreme Court would permit this. The NRC update procedure was marred by a great number of anomalies.”
Notably, following a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India hinting about anomalies over the NRC exercise, the state government also filed a lawsuit against Prateek Hajela, the controversial IPS officer who had been the state coordinator when the updating exercise of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) began in Assam.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also earlier trained a gun towards Prateek Hajela and claimed that the published final draft of the NRC was not error-free due to Hajela’s scam.
The chain of events has created great uncertainty over the fate of the NRC in Assam. Moreover, the discontinuation of the services of the 200 FT members has placed further cloud on the exercise, which was done by spending Rs 1,600 crore of public exchequer money.