By Sumit Saxena
New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) As the July 31 deadline for publication of the final Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) draws closer, two people from the state have moved the Supreme Court challenging the ex-parte order handed out by foreigners’ tribunals.
Assam, which has seen widespread migration since the early 20th century including from areas which now form Bangladesh, is also the only state to have an NRC, first prepared in 1951.
In the first case, Azizul Hoque, through advocate Anas Tanwir, moved the apex court against the tribunal order, which declared him a foreigner. Hoque, who is paralysed below the waist, contended that he has been languishing in detention since March 2017, on the basis of an ex-parte order declaring him to be a foreigner.
“It is submitted that the (Gauhati) High Court dismissed the petition by the petitioner (Hoque) despite accepting the medical certificate, certifying him to be suffering from lower limb paralysis, and his name, along with his other family members, appears in the draft NRC,” said Hoque’s petition.
The citizenship has been revoked, as he could not appear in person and also could not arrange a representation before the tribunal, he contended.
“Due to lower limb paralysis, he could not appear before the tribunal. As a consequence, it passed an ex-parte order declaring him a foreigner,” said Tanwir.
The Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and the state authorities concerned in the matter.
In the second case, Aleha Khatoon, through advocate Adil Ahmed, moved the apex court on Tuesday challenging the Gauhati High Court order which upheld the foreigners’ tribunal order declaring her a foreigner.
Her counsel contended that being illiterate, she had developed some misunderstanding with the lawyer in connection with the listing of her matter at the tribunal, and could not appear on the scheduled date. “Her name appears in the draft NRC. A family tree showing her lineage with her parents, and siblings and her marriage with an Indian citizens was produced before the authorities concerned. Still, she was declared a foreigner,” Adil argued.
In February 2018, the foreigners’ tribunal held that Aleha is a foreigner of the stream post March 25, 1971, as she neither appeared nor filed any written statement. Thus, she failed to discharge the mandatory burden of proving her identify, and later, she was termed as a foreigner.
“In May 2018, she filed a petition in the tribunal in support of her claim, but her plea was turned down. In September 2018, she moved the Gauhati High Court, but could not get any relief,” added Adil.
The apex court, after hearing the arguments, stayed the High Court order, and issued notice to the Centre and authorities concerned.
The draft Assam NRC was published on July 30, 2018 in which the names of 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore people were included. The names of 40,70,707 people were not on the list. Of these, 37,59,630 names have been rejected and the remaining 2,48,077 are on hold.
(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at [email protected])