Right to Nationality and Citizenship Network (RNCN), a recently formed network of concerned individuals about citizenship rights in India, is deeply concerned about the recent notification issued by the National Register of Citizens (NRC) Coordinator to all the Deputy Commissioners and District Registrar of Citizen Registration (DRCR) in Assam to review a segment of the inclusions in the final NRC list published on 31 August 2019 and drop the names of “ineligible persons” and their descendants.
The NRC published on 31 August 2019 was confirmed ‘final’ by the Supreme Court in several orders issued in 2019. As such any attempt to question the finality of the NRC list is a violation of Supreme Court’s order and amounts to contempt of court. The NRC coordinator’s website even declared: ‘Publication of final NRC: Published’. Further, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an order on 20 August 2019 saying ‘.. Every individual, whose name does not figure in the final NRC, can represent his/her case in front of the appellate authority i.e. Foreigner Tribunals (FT)’, and also that ‘MHA will amend the rules to increase the present time limit of filing of appeals in FTs from 60 days to 120 days regarding exclusion from final NRC.’
In this situation, it is perplexing how the Assam government is claiming that the NRC list published on 31 August 2019 is not final and that more names of ‘ineligible persons’ are to be deleted from the list and that the inclusion list is to be reviewed.
As per the NRC Regulations the Registrar General of India (RGI) is duty bound to publish the final list and the unreasonable delay is creating uncertainties and is unfair to those who are excluded. Those excluded or included in the final list of NRC cannot be penalised for this dereliction of duty. It amounts to denial of rights of the excluded who have been in a limbo for more than a year now since the publication of the final list on 31 August 2019. They are still denied right to appeal against their exclusion as notified in the MHA order of 20 August 2019 mentioned above and this is causing enormous mental stress.
The process of updating the NRC in Assam has been criticized by UN bodies, Special Procedures, and several other members of the international community by calling it an arbitrary exercise targeting minorities. The present proposals to review inclusions and deletion of ‘ineligible persons’ will add another layer of arbitrariness and unfairness in the process. Moreover, such exercises coming in the middle of the pandemic will cause immense hardships – social, economic and mental – for the affected populations of people at risk of statelessness in Assam.
RNCN believes that the order of the NRC coordinator to delete names of ‘ineligible persons’ and review of the included list is against the Supreme Court’s order and could result in arbitrary disenfranchisement of additional lakhs of individuals who have gone to great lengths to navigate a complex administrative process, furnish the required paperwork, attend hearings in faraway places and so on to feature in the NRC. It would also be a blot on Rule of Law in India if the due process of appeal against exclusion is delayed any further.
RNCN urges the NRC coordinator, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Assam to implement the Supreme Court’s order and withdraw the order immediately. RNCN also urges the RGI to immediately publish the final list confirmed by the Supreme Court. To end any scope for confusion and misinterpretation. Those excluded must be immediately provided with the required certification to enable them to process their claims in a fair manner.
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