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NRC IN ASSAM DEMOCRATIC, CALIBRATED PROCESS

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NRC IN ASSAM – DEMOCRATIC, CALIBRATED PROCESS

 

Background & Assam Accord

  • Being one of India’s most multi-ethnic states as well as a border state, the people of Assam felt the need to decide on the citizenship. There was a movement that happened towards this end in Assam.
  • Government of India signed the Assam Accord in 1985 with the promise to take care of the interest of the citizens of Assam.
  • NRC aims to give effect to the Assam Accord signed in 1985 between the Government of India, State Government of Assam, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and All Assam Gan Sangram Parishad(AAGSP).
  • Supreme Court of India mandated the government to deliver on the commitment. This led to the process of updating the National Register of Citizens in Assam in 2015.

Democracy and Rule of Law

  • India, as the world’s largest democracy, has firmly enshrined ‘equal rights for all’ and ‘respect for the rule of law’ in its Constitution.
  • An independent judiciary and fully autonomous state institutions, working for the defence of human rights, are an integral part of our political fabric and traditions. Any decision that is taken during the process of implementation of the NRC, will be within the four corners of Indian law and consistent with India’s democratic traditions.

Scientific Process driven by the Court

  • Within the meaning of the Foreigners Act of 1947, only a judicial process can declare a person a Foreigner. Specifically on the NRC, the following points may be noted:
  • This is a statutory, transparent, legal process mandated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
  • This is not an executive-driven process. The process is being monitored by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India directly and the government is acting in accordance with the directives issued by the court. The apex court of the land has itself set the deadlines for all steps that have been taken so far.
  • NRC is a fair process based on scientific methods. Inclusion in the NRC is unique process as it is based on “application” rather than “house to house enumeration”. That means that any person in Assam could have sought to be included in the list on the basis of having documentation to prove lineage from an entitled person, i.e. a person who was a resident of Assam as on March 24, 1971.
  • It is a non-discriminatory process. The process of identification and inclusion under the register is a scientific and well-calibrated process which leaves no room for bias and injustice. As can be seen from the application form for data entry in NRC, there was no column in the application asking for religion of the applicant. [Comment- Copy of the NRC form enclosed with the note.]
  • All deadlines were set by the Supreme Court. The State Coordinator submits reports directly to the Supreme Court from time to time.
  • Other than the extracts of NRC 1951 and electoral rolls upto 24th March 1971, there are 12 more documents that are admissable including the birth certificate, educational certificate, life insurance policy (up to 24th March, 1971) among others.

An obligation to protect human rights

  • It’s only after the people of the state were taken into confidence that the process of NRC listing
  • Through democratic means the human rights of each and every citizen of the state are being protected.

A commitment to fulfil the promise

  • Since there could be wrongful exclusion and inclusions in the list, both the state and the centre appealed to the Supreme Court to extend the deadline for publication of final Assam NRC from July 31 to a future date.
  • The central government also filed an affidavit seeking a direction for 20% re-verification of the final draft of the NRC in the districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the rest of Assam.
  • Though, the government undertook the activity on a war footing, but it has always left the possibility open for further improvement.
  • With the NRC listing, the intent of the government is not to expel anyone, but to assist them further. 

Right to Appeal

  • Anyone excluded from the list at this stage has a right to file an appeal (individually) within 120 days of receiving a notification of his or her exclusion, to the designated Tribunal constituted under the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order,1964.This means even if someone’s name does not appear in the final NRC, it is not the end of the road for them.
  • Exclusion from the NRC has no implication on the rights of an individual resident in Assam. It does not make the excluded person “Stateless”. It also does not make him or her a “Foreigner”, within the legal meaning of the term (i.e., under the relevant articles and provisions of the Foreigners’ Act of 1947). They will not be deprived of any rights or entitlements which they have enjoyed before.
  • All appeals and excluded cases will be examined by this Tribunal i.e. a judicial process. This judicial process will commence only after the appellate period is over (likely after December 31, 2019).
  • The government of India will even assist in providing directions on how to deal with such appeals. Through the District Legal Service Authorities, the government has provisioned to extend legal aid to the needy.
  • Thereafter, anyone still aggrieved by any decision of being excluded will have the right to approach the High Court of Assam against his or her exclusion from the NRC.
  • The recourse to the Supreme Court of India would also be available after that.For those who are not in the final list will not be detained and will continue to enjoy all the rights as before till they have exhausted all the remedies available under the law.

Proactive Steps taken by the Government

  • Throughout the process, the intent of the Government has been to make this process as simple and transparent as possible, and to reduce discomfort to the people.
  • Government of India and State Government of Assam are taking several steps for making the process fair, transparent and accessible to all. This can be seen from the following facts:
  • The State Government and the Union Government have repeatedly sought more time from the Supreme Court of India to complete this exercise, in order to eliminate / minimize the difficulties being faced by people who need to apply for inclusion in the list.
  • The State of Assam has assured provision of free legal assistance to any person excluded from the list and who is unable to afford such legal assistance. This is to enable people, especially the disadvantaged sections, to have access to best possible legal assistance.
  • To expedite the process of receiving applications for inclusion, the State Government is further adding 200 tribunals to the existing 100 tribunals. These extra tribunals will come into effect from September 2, 2019. A further 200 more tribunals will be set up by the State of Assam by December 2019. These Tribunals will be set up at Block level for the convenience of appellants.

Timeline of the NRC

The various stages and timelines of NRC update are the following:

  • Gazette Notification for initiation of NRC Process: 06th Dec, 2013
  • Submission of application forms: May, 2015 to August, 2015
  • Scrutiny and field verification of documents: Sept,2015 to Aug,2018
  • Publication of part draft NRC covering 1.90 crores:  31st Dec, 2017
  • Verification of remaining applicants:   January, 2018 to June, 2018
  • Publication of draft NRC covering 2.90 crores: 30th July, 2018
  • Receipt of claims and objections from 40 lakh: 31st December, 2018
  • Disposal of claims and objections:  15th Feb 2019 to August, 2019
  • Additional draft exclusion list: 26th June, 2019
  • Hearing of persons excluded in additional draft: from 05th July, 2019
  • Publication of final NRC list: 31st August, 2019
  • Completion of winding up activities: 31st December, 2019

NRC in numbers

  • Number of Applications received: 68,37,660
  • Number of persons covered in these applications:  3,30,27,661
  • Persons in draft NRC published on 30.07.2018: 2,89,83,677
  • Number of persons ineligible for inclusion in draft NRC: 40,70,707
  • Number of persons from which Claims received: 36,26,630
  • Number of persons against whom Objections received: 1,87,633
  • Additional draft Exclusion list published on 26.06.2019: 1,02,462
  • Number of persons included in Final NRC on 31.08.2019: 3,11,21,004
  • Number of persons excluded in Final NRC: 19,06,657

 

 



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