NRC: Government extends time limit for filing appeals in Foreign Tribunals to 120 days

New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry on Tuesday increased from 60 to 120 days the time limit for filing appeals in Foreign Tribunals (FTs) regarding exclusion from the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

A review meeting chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday decided to amend the rules realising the difficulties in filing an appeal within the prescribed time for all those excluded from the final NRC.

The meeting was attended by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the Chief Secretary of Assam and senior officers. The Supreme Court recently extended the deadline to publish the final NRC from July 31 to August 31.

"As it may not be possible for all those excluded from final NRC to file the appeal within the prescribed time, MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) will amend the rules to increase the present time limit for filing of appeals in FTs from 60 days to 120 days. The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 are also being amended accordingly," said a Home Ministry statement.

The review meet also decided that the Assam government would make arrangements to provide legal aid to the needy people amongst those excluded from NRC.

"Extensive deliberations have been held on the issue between the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Assam government in recent weeks," said the statement. "Every individual, whose name does not figure in the final NRC, can represent his or her case in front of the appellate authority such as Foreigner Tribunals. Under the provisions of Foreigners Act 1946 and Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964, only Foreigners Tribunals are empowered to declare a person a foreigner. Thus, non-inclusion of a person's name in the NRC does not by itself amount to him or her being declared as a foreigner," said the statement.

In order to facilitate the persons excluded from the NRC, adequate number of such tribunals were being established at convenient locations, it said. In order to maintain law and order situation, central security forces were being provided as per the assessment of the Assam government, the Ministry said.

The Home Ministry's decision comes amid apprehension of tension ahead of the August 31 publication of the NRC that may render thousands in Assam "stateless". Recently, thousands of people, particularly from Goalpara, Barpeta, Chenga, Boko, Chaygaon constituencies, were summoned by the NRC authorities in far off places like Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivsagar, Dhemaji and others to prove their citizenship claim.

The people were served notices on August 3 and 4 and were asked them to appear before the NRC centres on August 5, giving them little time to travel to places over 500 km away.

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