As the July 31 deadline for the final publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) approaches, authorities have made multiple changes to the eligibility criteria for applications of new Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) members.
According to an advertisement dated June 10, the Gauhati High Court called for applications to fill 221 vacancies in 200 new tribunals. The eligibility criteria for these posts however, have changed. While the required age and years of experience of advocates has been reduced, an additional provision has been made for recruiting retired bureaucrats.
The minimum qualifications required of aspirants now are, “retired judicial officers of Assam Judicial Service, retired civil servants (not below the rank of secretary and additional secretary) with judicial experience, or advocates not below the age of 35 years with at least seven years of practice”. Earlier, for advocates, it was 45 years of age and 10 years of practise.
Assam’s Commissioner and Secretary (Home and Political) department, Ashutosh Agnihotri, told The Indian Express, “Yes, the recruitment process has started – the Gauhati High Court has advertised for the posts. The selected candidates will be imparted necessary training. We plan to compete recruitment process by August 20.”
FTs are quasi-judicial bodies meant to “furnish opinion on the question as to whether a person is or is not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigner’s Act, 1946”. The Gauhati HC interviews candidates while the appointments are done by the Home and Political Department. These tribunals will hear appeals of people left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) list. The state ALREADY has 100 such tribunals currently.
The NRC, prepared in 1951, is being updated in Assam to include the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the 1951 NRC or in any of the Electoral Rolls or in any other admissible documents issued upto the midnight of March 24, 1971. A total of 2.89 crore people of the 3.29 crore applicants who applied in 2015 found a mention in the draft leaving over 40 lakh people out of the final draft NRC published on July 30, 2018. Of the 40 lakh-odd excluded, around 36 lakh people filed their ‘claims’ while ‘objections’ were received against a little over two lakh people in the draft.
The state government had initially proposed the set up of 1,000 FTs at once to deal with the increase in workload after the draft of the NRC was published.
However, the Supreme Court ordered on May 30 that the first 200 of these new tribunals must be made functional by September 1.