GUWAHATI: The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has filed a petition before Gauhati high court seeking 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.
The petition sought 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 the petition, CJP alleged that it never came across any concerted efforts in furtherance of the 2019 communication issued by MHA, and submitted a representation before the state home department for framing scheme and modalities for providing effective legal aid to the NRC left-outs.
The CJP said that in an independent survey in 10 districts of Assam to assess the preparedness of district legal services authorities (DSLA) which revealed that the front offices were either not present or the ones that had front offices were inadequate in terms of space or in terms of staff.
It was also revealed that in none of the 10 legal services authorities, were the personnel trained on Citizenship, NRC, Immigration, or the Foreigners Act, all of which are germane to the impending situation of people having to appeal before the Foreigners Tribunal to prove their citizenship.
In the petition, CJP also pointed out the need to be set up at Taluk level; otherwise, the process of providing legal aid remains largely inadequate. About proposed legal camps, the petition pointed out that once the rejection slip is handed over, the person has only 120 days to file an appeal before a Foreigners Tribunal and it is a time-consuming task to gather relevant documents, for 19 lakh people in Assam and hence these legal camps should be operational in advance so people are given proper legal aid.
The court has issued notice to the government and fixed April 5 for the next hearing.