Gauhati High Court

A rights body on March 1 has approached the Gauhati High Court seeking apposite legal aid for those left out in the Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) list, released on August 31, 2019.

The Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) after conducting a survey of 10 District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) establishments in Assam filed a petition to the court saying that DLSAs were short-staffed with under-trained para legal volunteers and poor infrastructure.

The Supreme Court-monitored NRC published lists on August 31, 2019, excluding 19.06 lakh people. A total of 3,11,21,004 names were included in the NRC lists out of 3,30,27,661 applicants.

CJP secretary Teesta Setalvad said her organisation has been writing letters to the National Legal Services Authority and the Assam State Legal Services Authority (ASLSA) since April last year after the Union home ministry’s statement on August 20, 2019, that legal assistance would be given to those people excluded from the NRC list, if they need legal support.

The ASLSA in November last year said that it has enough machinery to deal with any action taken by the government with regards to NRC and that legal camps would be organised after rejection slips are handed out to the 19.06 lakh people explaining why they were not included in the NRC list.

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‘No training on NRC, citizenship’

The CJP conducted a study of the functioning of the DLSAs in the 10 districts of Assam’s 34 districts and found they have 273 active advocates appointed for legal aid and 333 para legal volunteers whose educational qualifications varied from district to district.

“No training on citizenship, immigration, NRC, Foreigners’ Act and related issues was given to the concerned persons in any of these 10 DLSAs. Seven Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) cases were handled by the counsel of the DLSA in 2019 and three in 2020 in Dhubri district, no FT cases appeared to have been dealt with by the counsel of the other nine DLSAs,” the CJP said.

The Gauhati High Court has issued notices to the authorities concerned and fixed April 5 as the next date of hearing.

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