Inadequate legal aid for NRC excluded persons, NGO moves Guwahati HC

Photo: Shaheen Abdulla

Teesta Setalvad’s Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has filed a petition before Guwahati High Court seeking effective legal aid for 1.9 million excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

According to the CJP, the petition sought directions to the state to formulate effective and robust modalities for legal aid in terms of having trained panels of lawyers and adequate front offices in light of the impending appeals to be filed before Foreigners Tribunals by people from marginalised sections to prove their citizenship.

Senior advocate Mihir Desai appeared for CJP during the online proceedings.

The petition seeks clarification on a press communication issued by MHA on August 20, 2019 which stated that legal assistance would be provided to those excluded from NRC, those who are in need of such legal aid. In early 2020, CJP petitioned the High Court on the issue with three families of those excluded. The petition was withdrawn after the High Court opined that this was a fit case for a public interest litigation.

The new petition emphasises that those excluded cannot be deemed non-citizens till the remedies available before them are exhausted, and unless the marginalised among them are not provided adequate legal aid, they would suffer irreparable loss and injury.

“There are no reports anywhere that any panel of lawyers or for that matter any modalities for legal aid to those excluded from the NRC final list is available or has been prepared,” states the petition.

The petition has prayed for writs to direct state authorities to appoint adequate legal aid lawyers and provide them with manuals so that uniform legal assistance is provided, to formulate modalities of legal aid for NRC left outs. It also prays that the court directs that unless necessary advance arrangements for legal aid are made, rejection slips should not be handed out to those excluded.