'NRC List Not Final,' Says State Coordinator, Tells Foreigners' Tribunals Not to Use it

The NRC list in question had been published by the office of the Registrar General of India on August 31, 2019 and had excluded 19.06 lakh applicants.

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New Delhi: The Assam state coordinator for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has written to the members of foreigners’ tribunals (FT) across the state that the NRC list published by the state government in 2019 is not final and instructed them not to consider that list (or its supplementary list) as evidence to dispose of cases.

State coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma had, on April 18, issued a letter to all FT members in Assam saying that the NRC list published on August 31, 2019 cannot be considered final since it had not been declared as such by the Registrar General of Citizens Registration (RGCR).

“…there are errors, things may change when the final NRC gets published,” the Hindu quoted the letter as saying.

The August 31 list had been published by the office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) and had left out 19,06,657 people out of the 3,30,27,661 applicants. It should be noted that the press note issued by the RGI’s office refers to the list as “final”.

A member of an FT that the newspaper spoke to disagreed with Sarma’s claims, saying that the NRC list was final as it had been in compliance with various Supreme Court orders and had been published through a notification from the RGCR.

The FT member also cited the fact that the list was available on the official website of the Assam NRC and that it had been made clear that that list was final by former state coordinator Prateek Hajela.

The member also said Sarma’s interpretation of the law as well as various Supreme Court orders was wrong and that he should not interfere with the functioning of FTs, which he said was outside Sarma’s jurisdiction.

In response, Sarma told the newspaper that the RGI and Hajela are the only ones with the authority to publish the final NRC list and that they have not done so as yet. Further, he objected to FT members using the August 31 list as final and making judgements on the basis of the same.

Also read: Why Is No One In Assam Happy With the Final NRC?

After the August 31 list had been published, The Wire had reported the widespread disappointment of the groups who had sought for the NRC revision exercise.

Groups such as the Assam Public Works (APW) – among the main petitioners of the matter in the Supreme Court – demanded the erstwhile state coordinator conduct additional reverification because the figure of 19.06 exclusions was perceived as being lower than their expectations. The All Assam Students Union (AASU), too, felt the number was too low.

At the same time, other organisations in the state, such as the All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU), objected to the names of certain ‘genuine’ citizens being left out of the list.

Even the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Himanta Biswa Sarma, then a minister in erstwhile chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s cabinet, had raised objections to the list. 

The recent stand-off between the state coordinator and members of the FTs comes as the Gauhati high court continues to hear petitions from individuals who were once declared ‘Indian’ by FTs but were then subsequently declared to be ‘foreigners’ after being referred to the FT again.

On May 6, the Gauhati high court opined that the principle of res judicata would apply to FTs even though they are only quasi-judicial bodies and, as such, a person once deemed to be an Indian can not thereafter be deemed to be a foreigner by a FT.