3 March 2021 12:19 PM GMT
While hearing a plea filed by the Human rights organization 'Citizens for Justice and Peace' (CJP) [led by Teesta Setalvad] seeking proper legal aid for such people who have been left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the Gauhati High Court on Monday (01st March) issued notice to the Union of India, State Government among others. The Petitioner-organization...
While hearing a plea filed by the Human rights organization 'Citizens for Justice and Peace' (CJP) [led by Teesta Setalvad] seeking proper legal aid for such people who have been left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the Gauhati High Court on Monday (01st March) issued notice to the Union of India, State Government among others.
The Petitioner-organization submitted before the bench of Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Manash Ranjan Pathak that a survey conducted by the organization in 10 District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) establishments revealed they were understaffed with the under-trained paralegal volunteers and poor infrastructure.
The Petitioner-organization also raised concern before the Court that since NRC excluded people are required to file an appeal where the limitation is 120 days, there would not be enough funds for such persons to engage legal counsel and get legal aid in such a short span of time.
Therefore, it was further contended in the plea that legal aid be provided by the Assam State Legal Services Authority as well as the National Legal Services Authority to these people.
Lastly, issuing notices to the Union of India and the State of Assam, among others, the Bench asked the respondents to file their responses within three weeks and the matter has been listed for further hearing on 05th April 2021.
In related news, the Assam Government last month submitted before the Gauhati High Court that it has taken a policy decision not to assign regular work to the 200 newly appointed Members of the Foreigners Tribunal since the possibility of NRC rejection slip being issued in near future is very bright.
Before the bench of Justice Suman Shyam, R. C. Borpatragohain (Advocate General, Assam) submitted that as soon as the rejection slips are issued, the newly appointed Members of the Foreigners Tribunals would be required to decide appeals arising there-from and hence, the Government is of the view that they should not be assigned any other duty for now.
About the rejection slips
It may be noted that the issuance of NRC rejection slips by the NRC Secretariat is a mandatory step, before the people excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam can approach the Foreigners Tribunals.
Basically, these slips would be communicating/specifying the reason(s) for the exclusion of the names from the register which was published on 31 August, 2019.
Recently, in an RTI reply, the home ministry informed – interestingly, that it has approached the Supreme Court seeking permission for the issue of rejection slips by the NRC Secretariat.
To process the appeals, a total of 200 new foreigners' tribunals were formed in September 2019.
It is interesting to note that the NRC list has not been notified by the Registrar General of India (RGI) to date, and in the absence of it, NRC Rejection Slips can not be issued in practical terms and so, it is to be seen how such slips would be issued and if the NRC list would be notified in the near future.
Submissions made by the parties before the Court
On 12th February 20201, the State Government also submitted before the Court that the decision-making process on the issue (issuing NRC Rejection Slips) is still under progress and therefore, some more time would be required to take a concrete view of the matter.
Significantly, H. K. Das, the amicus curie pointed out that the stand of the Govt. of Assam is in conflict with the stand projected in the affidavit filed on behalf of the Union of India and therefore, the matter needs to be resolved through a judicial order.
Interestingly, R.K. Dev Choudhury (ASGI) submitted before the Court that he had no instruction on how soon the NRC rejection slip would be issued in Assam.
Therefore, on his request, the Court granted him 03 weeks' time to seek specific instruction and place the same before the Court.
Accordingly, the Registry was directed to list the case again on 17th March 2021.
The Government of India has already allowed the Assam Government to utilize the services of the newly appointed Foreigners' Tribunals Members for deciding pending reference cases.
However, during the course of the last hearing in this matter, the Gauhati High Court had called it "unfortunate" that no concrete action was taken by the State to assign proper duties to those Officials.
"What is even more surprising is that no valid reason for such delay has been brought to the notice of this Court", the Court had remarked.
Earlier, on 20th November, the Assam government had submitted before the High Court that unless the NRC rejection slips are issued, these newly recruited F.T. members cannot be assigned regular posting as they cannot decide reference case due to the prevailing norms laid down by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
However, as stated, the Ministry of Home Affairs has already conveyed its no objection for assignment of regular works to the newly recruited members including the power to decide reference cases pending before the various Tribunals in Assam.
Case title - Citizen For Justice And Peace v. Union of India and others [PIL/12/2021]
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