New Delhi: People left off the National Register of Citizens (NRC) are not ‘stateless’ and will continue to enjoy all the rights as before till they exhaust all the remedies available under the law, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Sunday. It said exclusion from the NRC has no implication on the rights of an individual resident in Assam and that they will not be deprived of any rights or entitlements which they have enjoyed before.
The MEA’s comments came in the wake of commentaries in sections of the foreign media about certain aspects of the final NRC which it said are ‘incorrect’.
The NRC has been prepared to identify Indian citizens living in Assam since March 24, 1971 or before. Out of 3.3 crore applicants, over 19 lakh people were excluded from the final NRC published, Saturday.
“Exclusion from the NRC has no implication on the rights of an individual resident in Assam. For those who are not in the final list will not be detained and will continue to enjoy all the rights as before till they have exhausted all the remedies available under the law,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
“It does not make the excluded person ‘Stateless’. It also does not make him or her ‘foreigner’, within the legal meaning of the term. They will not be deprived of any rights or entitlements which they have enjoyed before,” added Raveesh Kumar.
The spokesperson also said that to expedite the process of receiving applications for inclusion, the Assam government is establishing 200 more tribunals, in addition to the existing 100.
“A further 200 more tribunals will be set up by the State of Assam by December 2019. These tribunals will be set up at block level for the convenience of appellants,” Kumar informed.
Kumar said that anyone excluded from the list at this stage has a right to file an appeal within 120 days of receiving a notification of exclusion to the designated tribunal.
“All appeals and excluded cases will be examined by this tribunal ie a judicial process. This judicial process will commence only after the appellate period is over. Thereafter, anyone still aggrieved by any decision of being excluded will have the right to approach the High Court of Assam and then the Supreme Court,” Kumar said.
The spokesperson also said that the Indian government will even assist in providing directions on how to deal with such appeals.
“Through the district legal service authorities, the government has provisioned to extend legal aid to the needy. The State of Assam has assured provision of free legal assistance to any person excluded from the list and who is unable to afford such legal assistance. This is to enable people, especially the disadvantaged sections, to have access to the best possible legal assistance,” Kumar informed. He added that the updating of NRC is a ‘statutory, transparent, legal process’ mandated by the Supreme Court. He asserted that said that the NRC is a fair process based on scientific methods.
Kumar also asserted that the NRC is a non-discriminatory process, which leaves no room for bias and injustice. “As can be seen from the application form for data entry in NRC, there was no column in the application asking for the religion of the applicant,” asserted Kumar.