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Amnesty for transparency of tribunals during trials

By City Correspondent

GUWAHATI, Aug 31 - Amnesty International India today expressed concern about the functioning of the foreigners tribunals (FTs), which will decide whether those excluded from the NRC are Indian citizens or not, and urged the Government of Assam to ensure that the tribunals function with utmost transparency and are in line with the fair trial standards guaranteed under national and international law.

�The foreigners tribunals, which will decide the Indian citizenship of millions of people, are quasi-judicial bodies where persons claimed to be foreigners have the responsibility to prove that they are Indian citizens. Several reports have demonstrated how the proceedings before foreigners tribunals are arbitrary, while their orders are biased and discriminatory. Although, the Government of India is within its sovereign right to update NRC, it must ensure that it is not depriving a person of his or her nationality on arbitrary or vague grounds, by diminishing procedural due process, or if such deprivation stands to render a person stateless,� said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India in a statement.

In the statement, the organisation also alleged that instances of the foreigners tribunals declaring citizens as �irregular foreigners� over clerical errors � such as minor differences in spellings of names or age in electoral rolls, or slight contradictions between answers given in cross-examinations and what is written in the documents � are appallingly common.

It also expressed concern at the gender discrimination in the proceedings before the tribunals which are heavily weighed against married women. Reasons stemming from deeply rooted patriarchal structures such as child marriage, non-inheritance of property and residence in other states before marriage have caused mass non-verification of their documents.

�Assam is on the brink of a crisis which would not only lead to a loss of nationality and liberty of a large group of people but also erosion of their basic rights, severely affecting the lives of generations to come. Transparency in foreigner tribunal proceedings and strict adherence to fair trial standards can prevent this impending crisis,� Patel added.

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