GUWAHATI: The Assam government said on Tuesday said it will bear the legal expenses of needy people excluded from the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) so that they can appeal to foreigners’ tribunals for the inclusion of their names.
“The state government will make necessary arrangements to provide legal aid to needy people among those excluded from the NRC by providing all assistance through the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA),” state additional chief secretary (home and political department) Kumar Sanjay Krishna said in a statement.
The free legal services include fees for processing, drafting, typing, clerkage and remuneration of lawyers empanelled with the state legal service authority under the National Legal Services Authority (Free and Competent Legal Services) Regulation, 2010. The expenses will be borne by the DLSA.
The state government had by a December 2018 order notified that people whose annual income was less than Rs 3 lakh were eligible for free legal services.
Krishna added that persons left out of the final NRC, which is to be published on August 31, will not be detained under any circumstances till foreigners’ tribunals take a decision. Non-inclusion of a person’s name in the NRC does not by itself amount to him or her being declared a foreigner, he added.
A person declared a foreigner by a tribunal in the state is immediately taken into custody and shifted to one of six detention centres set up inside central and district jails. But, according to a recent Supreme Court order, those who have been in detention for three years or more can be released on bail on sureties signed by two Indian citizens.
On August 24, TOI had reported that those who do not make it to the final NRC may have to shell out up to Rs 50,000 to attempt to reclaim citizenship at foreigner’s tribunals. The cost would increase if their appeals are rejected by the tribunals and fresh appeals are made in the high court and then the Supreme Court.
The cost incurred at a tribunal comprises two components — legal and administrative. The legal expenses include the advocate’s fee for filing (a one-time fee) and for appearing (multiple times), which can go up to Rs 40,000 at the least. Administrative expenses, which cover a much wider range of things, could go up to Rs 10,000 for collection of certified copies of 23 documents.
“The state government will have to make provisions by a notification to include this category of people (NRC dropouts) as eligible to avail of the free legal service. As of now only a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, a victim of human trafficking, a beggar (as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution), a woman or a child, a disabled person, a victim of a mass disaster or ethnic violence, of caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster, an industrial workman and people in custody are eligible for the free service,” a source said.
The state government has designated 37 of the 100 tribunals in 37 districts for receiving appeals from persons excluded from the NRC. These appeals will be heard in 200 new tribunals which will become operational from October. The excluded persons have till December 31 to file their appeals.
The additional chief secretary stated 200 more foreigners’ tribunals will be set up soon and they shall “endeavour to set them up at convenient places so that filing and hearing of appeals is done smoothly and efficiently”.
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