When The National Register of Citizens (NRC) authorities in Assam published a consolidated family-wise list of applicants recently, they appended a note that those included may also be excluded later, and that no position in the list is permanent. As of now, the NRC has included 3.11 crore applicants as citizens, and excluded 19 lakh.

Under what circumstances can an included person’s name be deleted?
The note described three circumstances:

* Any fact of misrepresentation of particulars/documents discovered by the authorities;

* Discovery of a person being a Declared Foreigner (or a migrant of 1966-71 who is unregistered with a Foreigners Regional Registration Office [FRRO]); a person with a case pending at a Foreigners Tribunal, or a person being a D (Doubtful) voter or a descendant of such a person;

* Receipt of an opinion by any Foreigners Tribunal declaring a person as a foreigner.

Who is a D-voter or a Declared Foreigner?
D-Voter is a category introduced in Assam in 1997 to mark people unable to prove their citizenship during verification. A Declared Foreigner is one identified as such by one of the 100 Foreigners Tribunals (FTs), which are quasi-judicial bodies that opine whether or not a person is a foreigner within the meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946.

Under Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, people who entered Assam between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 need to register with an FRRO. They would have all rights of a citizen except the right to vote, which would be granted after 10 years. In the NRC note, those who entered Assam within this 1966-71 window but did not register themselves, too, are liable to be excluded.

How could such persons have been included in the NRC in the first place?
There have been allegations that Declared Foreigners have entered the final NRC. A centralised database is in the making, as a part of an e-FT programme, which will streamline databases of people declared or suspected to be foreigners by parallel processes (such as Foreigners Tribunals, Border Police reference, and NRC) and also store the biometrics of such people.

Another possible explanation is that a person declared to be a foreigner, having failed to produce papers to convince a Foreigners Tribunal, might have convinced the NRC with the same documents.

What happens to the over 19 lakh who are already excluded?
They will have the chance to appeal at the Foreigners Tribunals. The first step is obtaining an “exclusion or rejection” order from the NRC authorities, but there is no clarity on how long this will take. As per amended rules, a person has 120 days (understood to be counted from the day of the issuance of the rejection order) to appeal. If no appeal is filed in 120 days, the Deputy Commissioner of that district will make a “reference” to the Tribunal.

The state government has announced that those excluded will get legal aid through the District Legal Services Authorities. The real challenge is before FTs where extensive documentation is required. Getting certified copies of documents from appropriate authorities is the first big hurdle. The poor and the illiterate are baffled.

The BJP and its’ lawyers’ body, the Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad, are formulating ways to provide legal aid to “genuine Indian citizens”. Several NGOs are also training volunteers to work as para-legals, while activists across the state have formed groups and are holding awareness meetings.

 Source: The Indian Express