NEW DELHI – Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the governments at the Centre and Assam on the two petitions challenging the Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order 2019 on the ground that certain provisions in the amendment order were in violation of the fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution and has sought reply from the respondents within 4 weeks.
The petitions were filed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) and the All Assam Minorities Students’ Union (AAMSU) separately challenging the constitutional validity of the Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019 which was issued by the Center on May 30th 2019.
A bench headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta took note of the submissions of senior advocates appearing for JUH and AAMSU that the 2019 order was unfair to those who would be forced to challenge the non-inclusion in the Assam National Register of Citizens. JUH and AAMSU were represented through senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid assisted by Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, Advocate on Record.
The recent amendments made by way of the 2019 Amendment Order provided the procedure for filing and hearing of appeals, under newly inserted Paragraph 3A, from non-inclusion of names in the final NRC set to be published on or before 31st July 2019.
Among the provisions challenged, the petitioners have pointed out before the court that as per the 2003 citizenship rules, 60 days’ time from the date of rejection of claim was to be provided for filing of appeals from non-inclusion, however, the 2019 amendment order has provided for filing of appeal only after production of certified copy of the order rejecting the claim of the appellant while there is neither any procedure for condonation of delay nor any obligation on NRC authorities to issue the certified copy of rejection order in a time bound manner.
It was also submitted that since the amendment order empowers the Tribunals to reject the appeal at the threshold itself, this aspect is in complete violation of the principles of natural justice and the constitutional liberties as enshrined in Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution as the appeal so preferred can be rejected without even hearing the appellant and his/her absence. In addition to these conditions the counsels for JUH have also stressed that the issuance of a parallel reference upon preferring an appeal is also highly unnecessary and arbitrary and the same could also lead to arrest of the appellants while their appeals are pending.
The petition filed by JUH has submitted that “while the Tribunals have been entrusted with a very crucial task of being the final adjudicatory authority with respect to appeals arising out of rejection of claims by the NRC authorities, the purpose of setting up such Tribunals for identification of foreigners and determination of Indian citizenship will stand frustrated if unfairness, unreasonableness and arbitrariness is allowed to creep into the procedure and to thwart the entire gigantic exercise.”
Reacting to the latest court proceeding, Jamiat president Maulana Arshad Madani said “it is heartening news. It is not only a major success of our lawyers but also those beleaguered people of Assam who have been running from pillar to post to get their names in the NRC”.
“If the Honourable Supreme Court does accept the argument presented by Jamaiat Ulama-i-Hind, it would give a major relief to all affected-people Hindus and Muslims to prove their citizenship claim” he added.
Maulana Madani also made it clear that the Jamiat has taken up the citizenship issue as a humanitarian issue and it does not distinguish between people on the basis of their religion and faiths and has always been working for humanity.
Maulana Madani also lambasted the communal forces saying in the name of rules, they are creating new hurdles and complications in the way of affected people who are striving to get their names included in the final draft of NRC. During the hearing, leaders of JUH and AAMSU were present in the court room.