Assam foreigners’ tribunals need more transparency — Setalvad
Guwahati, June 30 (PTI): Rights activist Teesta Setalvad on Sunday called for more transparency in the functioning of foreigners’ tribunals (FT) in Assam while deciding the fate of suspected foreigners.
The FTs are quasi-judicial bodies which determine the citizenship of people suspected to be illegal immigrants.
“We are currently touring some districts of Assam and have come across a large number of cases where people have been declared foreigners despite having the required documents,” said Setalvad, secretary of Mumbai-based NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace.
Many people in Morigaon, Nagaon and Chirang districts have been declared foreigners by the tribunals even though they had the required documents, she said.
The NRC Seva Kendras and the FTs are in a hurry to meet targets and as a result, the poor people, irrespective of communities, have become victims of anomalies in the process of determining citizenship, she alleged.
The Seva Kendras are help desks set up to assist people in enrolling for the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The NRC should be prepared in the “original spirit of the Assam Accord so that no genuine Indian citizen’s identity of citizenship is wiped out”, Setalvad said.
The FTs lack transparency as open trial is not allowed, rendering the process vulnerable to charges of bias, senior advocate Mihir Desai, accompanying Setalvad, alleged.
He said tribunal proceedings should be transparent so that the public is assured that no injustice was meted out to those who faced trial for being suspected foreigners.
“Open court trial is the rule of justice. There are exceptions only in the cases of rape, child victims and where the victims demand in-camera trials,” Desai said.
He claimed that most of FTs are headed by people who lack judicial experience.
There are several cases like that of Army veteran Md Sanaullah in which people having proper documents were wrongly declared foreigners by the FTs, Desai said.
The Supreme Court-monitored NRC updation exercise is being carried out in Assam to identify illegal immigrants in the state which has seen an influx of Bangladeshis since the early 20th century.
The draft NRC, which was published on July 30 last year, included the names of 2.9 crore people out of total 3.29 crore applicants, leaving out 40 lakh of them.
The first draft published on the intervening night of December 31, 2017, and January 1, 2018, included 1.9 crore names.
An additional draft exclusion list comprising the names of 1,02,462 people was published on June 26 this year.
The persons whose names appear in the additional exclusion list are the ones who were included in the draft NRC published on July 30, but subsequently found ineligible.