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Posted at: Aug 20, 2019, 3:28 PM; last updated: Aug 20, 2019, 5:48 PM (IST)

Govt tries to allay fears on NRC, says non-inclusion does not mean declared foreigner

Govt tries to allay fears on NRC, says non-inclusion does not mean declared foreigner
A woman checks her name on the draft list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Goalpara district of Assam. Reuters file

New Delhi, August 20

In an effort to allay fears, the Union Home Ministry on Tuesday said non-inclusion of a person's name in the final list of NRC does not by itself amount to him or her being declared a foreigner and assured that adequate arrangements have been made for appeal against it.

The ministry also said it will amend the rules to increase the time limit of filing of appeals in foreigners tribunals (FTs) from 60 to 120 days for those who would be excluded from the final National Register of Citizens, a list of Assam's residents to be published on August 31.

The decisions were taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and attended by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and others here on Monday.

In a statement, the ministry said under the provisions of Foreigners Act 1946 and Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964, only foreigners tribunals are empowered to declare a person foreigner.

"Thus, non-inclusion of a person's name in NRC does not by itself amount to him/her being declared as a foreigner," it said.

In order to facilitate the persons excluded from NRC, adequate number of such tribunals is being established at convenient locations.

"It has been decided that state government would also make arrangements to provide legal aid to the needy people amongst those excluded from NRC. As it may not be possible for all those excluded from final NRC to file the appeal within the prescribed time, the 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," the statement said.

At the meeting, it was also decided that adequate arrangements will be made by the state government to provide full opportunity to people excluded from the NRC list to appeal.

"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," it said.

The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 are also being amended accordingly.

To maintain law and order, the ministry said, central security forces are being provided to the state.

The Union Home Ministry and the Assam government have held extensive deliberations in recent weeks, the statement said.

When the draft NRC was published on July 30, 2018, there was a huge controversy over the exclusion of 40.7 lakh people from it. The draft NRC included the names of 2.9 crore people out of the total 3.29 crore applications.

In the list published in June 2019, over a lakh more people were excluded.

The final list of the NRC will be published on August 31.

The Supreme Court-monitored NRC exercise, aimed at identifying illegal immigrants in the state that borders Bangladesh, was carried out only in Assam, which faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century.

When the NRC was first prepared in Assam in 1951, the state had 80 lakh citizens.

According to the 2011 census, Assam's total population is over 3.11 crore.

The process of identification of illegal immigrants in the state has been widely debated and become a contentious issue in the state politics.

A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students Union in 1979. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985, in the presence of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. 

On Monday, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal indicated that the government may explore legislative options to deal with the wrongful inclusion or exclusion of some names in the NRC after its final publication.

Last month, the Supreme Court rejected the Central and Assam governments' plea for sample re-verification to find out wrongful inclusions or exclusion of names.—PTI

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