RC Borpatragohain, the Advocate General of Assam, has informed the Guwahati High Court that the government has taken a policy decision to not assign regular work to the 200 newly appointed members of Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) as it is likely that rejections slips could be issued very soon.
It may be recalled that after over 19 lakh people were excluded from the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on August 31, 2019, the next step for them was to defend their citizenship before an FT. 200 new FT members had been recruited and trained to add to the existing strength of the FTs.
Guwahati HC February 12, 2021 order
Justice Suman Shyam of the Guwahati High Court records the AGs submission on the newly recruited FT members, in an order dated February 12 as follows:
“Also heard Mr. R.C. Borpatragohain, learned Advocate General, Assam who has appeared in this case today for the first time, on being instructed by the Government and submits that a policy decision has been taken by the State 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. The learned A.G. submits that as soon as 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. Mr. Borpatragohain submits that the stand of the Govt. has been brought on record by filing an affidavit on 12-02-2021. However, the said affidavit is not on record.”
The AG further submitted “that the decision making process on the above issue is still under progress and therefore, some more time will be required to take a concrete view in the matter.”
But it is noteworthy, that the affidavit submitted by the Union of India appeared to be in conflict with the Assam government’s stand, and this was pointed out to the HC by amicus curia HK Das, who asked for a resolution of the matter by judicial order.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Solicitor General of India RK Dev Choudhury submitted before the court that he had no instructions on how soon the NRC rejection slips will be issued in Assam. He sought three weeks to seek specific instructions. The HC granted this prayer, and adjourned the case to March 17, 2021. It also asked the February 12 affidavit, that was not on record on the date of passage of the order to be tagged with the case, thus ensuring it was put on record.
Delays and hurdles
It is noteworthy that the process of issuing rejection slips has been repeatedly delayed in Assam. The rejection slips were issued after a painstaking claims and objections process, and are based on reasons provided in the speaking order. At first, there was a delay in printing the speaking orders, then the Covid-19 pandemic brought the entire process to a grinding halt.
Meanwhile the Registrar General of India (RGI) is yet to notify the NRC, which is rather bizarre given how the NRC was a process monitored by the Supreme Court itself! Then, there is the entire matter of reverification of the NRC as demanded by the state government with the backing of the Centre. Though the Supreme Court had shot down this demand previously, the NRC State-coordinator issued a in October 2020 related to the reverification process prompting two contempt petitions filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) and All Assam Minorities Students Union (AAMSU).
It is also noteworthy, that the BJP-led Assam government has repeatedly refused to accept the NRC, alleging it has included names of ‘foreigners’.
The entire order of the Guwahati HC may be read here: