01, Jun 2019 | CJP Team
Offering some relief to lakhs of people who have filed applications and are attending hearings as a part of the Claims and Objections process of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Supreme Court has directed the NRC authority to ensure that the people receive a fair hearing.
On May 30, a bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi reportedly said, “There are disturbing reports in the media and media is not always incorrect.” The court also reportedly added, “There is a deadline and timeframe but that doesn’t mean that the officers cut short and just complete the process only to complete it. Merely disposing of 70 percent claims till today is not good unless the disposal is properly done. Please ensure that.”
Over four million people have been left out of the NRC draft, most of them from socio-economically backward communities. Now CJP, drawing from its previous experience in providing legal aid in Gujarat, will step in with a multi-faceted team of lawyers and volunteers to ensure that these people receive a fair chance while filing claims across 18 of the worst affected districts. Your contribution can help cover the costs of a legal team, travel, documentation and technological expenses. Please donate generously here.
The court order states:
Shri Hajela shall ensure that the hearing of the claims and objections, which are currently going on, are complied with strictly in accordance with law by the concerned officers and authorities who are considering such claims and objections and that all such claims and objections are heard and disposed of well in time to ensure publication of the final NRC on the date stipulated by the Court i.e. 31st July, 2019. While doing so, Shri Hajela will ensure that all affected parties get a fair opportunity of hearing and to produce relevant documents.”
We had broken the story of how people were being forced to file false objection applications. We had also reported earlier today on how a Kargil war veteran, who had dedicated 30 years of service to the nation, was declared a foreigner and sent to a detention camp, showing how the wider process of ascertaining the citizenship of people was flawed and required urgent checks and balances.
There have been several other similar shocking instances of families of prominent citizens being harassed such as when the citizenship of the family of former Indian President FA Ahmed was questioned. The family of Maulvi Mohammed Amiruddin who was the deputy speaker of the Assam Assembly and even the family of Puran Bahadur Chetry who served in the Azad Hind Faujand fought for India’s independence were similarly harassed.
The entire order may be read here:
Following the SC order the NRC authorities communicated the same with all DRCRs asking them to act in accordance with the order. The NRC circular may be viewed here:
The court also addressed the issue of hiring judges for the 200 proposed new Foreigners’ Tribunals. Earlier the Secretary to the Govt. of Assam, Home & Political Department in a letter dayed May 29, to the Registrar (Judicial), Gauhati High Court, had proposed the following qualifications:
(i) Advocates not below the age of 35 years of age with at least 7 years of practice: or
(ii) Retired Judicial Officers from the WP(C) 274/2009 5 Assam Judicial Service; or
(iii) Retired IAS of ACS Officers (not below the rank of Secretary/Addl. Secretary) having experience in quasi-judicial works.
(iv) The retirement age of the Members so appointed will be 67 years.
The Supreme Court made the following recommendation in this regard: “…the Court is of the view that so far as the qualification of Members to be indicated in the advertisement to be issued shall, instead of clause (iii) as proposed, be as follows:- “(iii) Retired civil servants (not below the rank of Secretary and Additional Secretary) having judicial experience.”
This is significant given how there have been concerns about the functioning of Foreigners’ Tribunals, that are quasi judicial authorities. There have been allegations of arbitrary judgments by inexperienced or poorly trained judges. Many judgments are made ex parte as people often avoid court appearances due to fear of being thrown into a detention camp as well as the fact that the burden of proof lies on the proceedee rather than the prosecution. This is unlike a criminal trial where a person is innocent until proven guilty.