A few days after the Centre directed Assam government to complete the process of issuing rejection slips for the National Register of Citizens (NRC), an official has said that it was not possible to issue the slips without Supreme Court orders.
A senior NRC official told the Economic Times, “Rejection slips to those left out of the final register has not started. There has to be an order from the Supreme Court which monitors the case. The state government had moved the Supreme Court seeking 20% sample reverification of names included in draft NRC in districts bordering Bangladesh and a 10% sample re-verification of names in the remaining districts. The matter is sub judice”.
He further pointed out that the Registrar General of India has not yet notified the final NRC list which was released on August 31, 2019. “The Ministry of Home Affairs in its affidavit filed on January 29, 2020, has submitted to the Supreme Court that the person not satisfied with outcome of decision of the claims and objects may file an appeal before the Foreigners Tribunal without waiting for publication of final NRC by Registrar General of Citizens Registration. However, the Supreme Court has not given any order on this suggestion. Even those moving the tribunal within 120 days of getting a rejection slip will have to suffer from time lag if the same is issued now,” the official told ET.
The fact that the final NRC is yet to be published was also pointed out by NRC co-ordinator Hitesh Sarma, in an affidavit filed before Guwahati High Court in December 2020. He had stated that the 2019 list was “supplementary NRC” which includes 4,700 ineligible names. “The Final NRC is yet to be published by Registrar General of India as per Clause 7 of the rules under the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003,” the affidavit said.
More than 19 lakh persons were excluded from the Assam NRC, after which their citizenship status has been in a limbo due to delay in issuing rejection slips which show the reason for exclusion and are based on the speaking orders issued by the officer examining Claims and Objections. This reason for exclusion is vital for going before the Foreigners Tribunal to defend one’s citizenship.
Furthermore, a Guwahati High Court bench which has been monitoring the functioning of Foreigners Tribunals since 2015, also dealt with the issuance of NRC rejection slips, recently. In its March 17 order, it became clear that neither the central government, nor the state government were able to take a clear stand on when the rejection slips will be issued or even a timeline for the same. Meanwhile, the Centre has advised that the Tribunal members, who were appointed for dealing with appeals arising out of these rejections, be assigned reference cases pending before these Tribunals.
With the Centre giving staunch directions to Assam to complete the process and with NRC officials awaiting orders from the Supreme Court, it has become evident that there is no clarity with the administration on the issuance of rejection slips which was the next step after the final NRC was released. There is also lack of political will, since the BJP government in Assam is keen on bringing out a “corrected NRC” if they win the on-going Assembly elections.