Assam woman ‘regains’ citizenship after being Declared foreigner by tribunal

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Assam woman ‘regains’ citizenship after being Declared foreigner by tribunal

  • A foreigners' tribunal in Assam’s Silchar district passed an order declaring Sefali Rani Das, a 23-year-old woman from Cachar district, a “citizen of India” following the Gauhati High Court’s intervention.
  • It had earlier declared her a foreigner ex parte (without her being present) in 2017


  • When the woman petitioned in the high court against tribunal's ruling, it set aside the order in July 2021 and gave her another opportunity to prove she was an Indian citizen before the tribunal.
  • Last Tuesday the tribunal heard the case again and declared that she was a citizen on the basis of “cogent, reliable and admissible evidence” submitted by her.
  • According to the ruling of the tribunal,she have given clear evidences to establish the presence of her grandfather on Indian soil, relatable to the period prior to 25.03.1971 with valid linkage documents of father as well as herself in accordance with law

About National Register of Citizens (NRC)

  • It is a document containing the name of all Indian citizens of Assam.
  • It is a register prepared after the conduct of the Census of 1951 in respect of each village, showing the houses or holdings in serial order and indicating against each house or holding the number and names of persons staying therein.
  • These registers covered each and every person enumerated during the Census of 1951 and were kept in the offices of Deputy Commissioners and Sub Divisional Officers according to instructions issued by the Government of India in 1951.
  • It was prepared under a directive from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • At present, only Assam has such a register
  • Nagaland is also creating a similar database known as the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants.
  • The union government is also pondering on the idea to extend this exercise on national level

Purpose of NRC in Assam

  • to identify foreign nationals living in the state that borders Bangladesh
  • to track down Indian citizens in Assam amid ""unprecedented"" migration from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)

Foreign Tribunals in Assam

  • Quasi-judicial bodies, to determine nationality of a migrant living in the state
  • Every individual, whose name does not figure in the final NRC, can represent his/her case in front of the appellate authority i.e. Foreigners Tribunals (FT).
  • Under the provisions of Foreigners Act 1946 and Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964, only Foreigners Tribunals are empowered to declare a person as a foreigner.
  • Assam Police Border Organisation, a wing of the State police tasked with detecting foreigners, readies the cases for the tribunals to decide who is a foreigner and who is not.
  • Composition: Advocates (minimum age of 35 years of age) with at least 7 years of practice (or) Retired Judicial Officers from the Assam Judicial Service (or) Retired IAS of ACS Officers (not below the rank of Secretary/Addl. Secretary) having experience in quasi-judicial works.

Benefits of implementation of NRC at national level

  • Ensuring citizen’s Right: A national NRC will clear the actual number of illegal migrants in Assam.
  • It will prevent further illegal migration that will ensure rights of Indian citizens in a better way.
  • Better initiatives and policy measures: It will provide a verified database to implement targeted policies and calibrated policy measures for benefits of Indian citizens especially tribal people.
  • This will rule out fake beneficiaries
  • Ensuring internal security: It will enhance internal security of the nation by keeping a check on illegal migration which leads to terrorist threat, counterfeit money etc.
  • Prevention of illegal migration: publication of an NRC at national level would identify migrants entering in the country illegally
  • Reduction of fake voting: Illegal migrants will find it difficult to procure Indian identity documents. Thus cases of voting for money through fake identities will reduce as persons whose names are not in list will lose voting rights.

Issues related to NRC implementation at national level

  • Property Loss: Those whose names are not on the list will be unable to purchase land or a home in the country.
  • It will lead to an increase in the sale of benami properties, particularly by persons who have lost their citizenship.
  • Problems with law and order: The implementation of the NRC may result in major law and order issues in India and neighbouring states.
  • Loss of Right to Vote: Right to vote is a constitutional right.
  • People excluded from the NRC would be excluded from voting and will lose the right to vote.
  • Fake Cases: There have been several cases of people having made fake official identity cards such as Aadhaar, PAN card, ration card and even voter’s identity card for legalise their illegal migration

Way forward

  • NRC exercise makes sense in Assam because in 1971 around 10 million people crossed over from Bangladesh to India and that caught the attention of authorities.
  • However, there is no need to get into this kind of exercise at national level, as it can lead to unintended consequences for the citizens of the country