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Tribunals hold key to �D� voters tangle

By R Dutta Choudhury
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GUWAHATI, June 13 � The fate of the voters categorized as �doubtful� still hangs in balance and the lack of infrastructure in the Tribunals set up under the provisions of the Foreigners� Act also slowed down the progress of dealing with their cases.

Though the issue has to be dealt with by the Tribunals, the State Government can play a major role in ensuring that the cases are disposed off as soon as possible as the D Voters have been deprived of the right to exercise their franchise since 1996.

Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that the State now has more than 1.47 lakh D voters and 12,480 persons were added to the list just before the last elections following an order of the Gauhati High Court as their names were referred to the Tribunals by the police.

Sources revealed that an intensive revision of the electoral rolls was carried out by the Election Commission in 1996-97 and those failed to provide the relevant documents during the process were categorized as D voters. Their names were in the voters� lists but they were denied of their right to vote. At that time, more than two lakh people were categorized as D voters, but subsequently, some died and some names were cleared by the Tribunals, leaving around 1.47 lakh people still in the doubtful category in the voters list of the State.

Sources said that the cases of all the D voters are now pending before the Tribunals. Earlier, the cases were referred to the tribunals set up under the provisions of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act and after scrapping of the Act by the Supreme Court, the cases were transferred to the Foreigners� Tribunals.

Official sources said that following a recent High Court order, the possibility of striking down the names of the D voters from the electoral rolls cannot be ruled out till their names are not cleared by the Tribunals. Sources revealed that the High Court, by an order on May 26, said �once a reference is made by the jurisdictional SP(B) to the Foreigners Tribunal, his/her name should be deleted from the electoral rolls forthwith.� As the cases of the D voters are pending before the Tribunals, the possibility of their names being struck down from the electoral rolls cannot be ruled out.

Sources said that the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Assam, would soon send the High Court order to the Election Commission (EC) and the final decision in this regard would be taken after getting the opinion or order from the Commission.

Official sources further pointed out that the State Government can play a major role in dealing with the problem. If necessary infrastructure is provided to the Tribunals and judges are appointed, the process of disposing off of the cases will be expedited and the Government can even set a time frame to the Tribunals for dealing with the cases of the D Voters, sources pointed out.

It may be mentioned here that the issue of D voters has become a major political issue as different political parties and organizations are alleging that genuine Indian citizens were deprived of their right to vote. In his address to the State Assembly recently, the Governor JB Patnaik also admitted that the matter of D voters is of concern to the Government. He assured that steps would be taken to ensure that all the genuine Indian citizens, who were identified as D voters are allowed to exercise their rights including the right to vote.

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Tribunals hold key to �D� voters tangle

GUWAHATI, June 13 � The fate of the voters categorized as �doubtful� still hangs in balance and the lack of infrastructure in the Tribunals set up under the provisions of the Foreigners� Act also slowed down the progress of dealing with their cases.

Though the issue has to be dealt with by the Tribunals, the State Government can play a major role in ensuring that the cases are disposed off as soon as possible as the D Voters have been deprived of the right to exercise their franchise since 1996.

Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that the State now has more than 1.47 lakh D voters and 12,480 persons were added to the list just before the last elections following an order of the Gauhati High Court as their names were referred to the Tribunals by the police.

Sources revealed that an intensive revision of the electoral rolls was carried out by the Election Commission in 1996-97 and those failed to provide the relevant documents during the process were categorized as D voters. Their names were in the voters� lists but they were denied of their right to vote. At that time, more than two lakh people were categorized as D voters, but subsequently, some died and some names were cleared by the Tribunals, leaving around 1.47 lakh people still in the doubtful category in the voters list of the State.

Sources said that the cases of all the D voters are now pending before the Tribunals. Earlier, the cases were referred to the tribunals set up under the provisions of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act and after scrapping of the Act by the Supreme Court, the cases were transferred to the Foreigners� Tribunals.

Official sources said that following a recent High Court order, the possibility of striking down the names of the D voters from the electoral rolls cannot be ruled out till their names are not cleared by the Tribunals. Sources revealed that the High Court, by an order on May 26, said �once a reference is made by the jurisdictional SP(B) to the Foreigners Tribunal, his/her name should be deleted from the electoral rolls forthwith.� As the cases of the D voters are pending before the Tribunals, the possibility of their names being struck down from the electoral rolls cannot be ruled out.

Sources said that the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Assam, would soon send the High Court order to the Election Commission (EC) and the final decision in this regard would be taken after getting the opinion or order from the Commission.

Official sources further pointed out that the State Government can play a major role in dealing with the problem. If necessary infrastructure is provided to the Tribunals and judges are appointed, the process of disposing off of the cases will be expedited and the Government can even set a time frame to the Tribunals for dealing with the cases of the D Voters, sources pointed out.

It may be mentioned here that the issue of D voters has become a major political issue as different political parties and organizations are alleging that genuine Indian citizens were deprived of their right to vote. In his address to the State Assembly recently, the Governor JB Patnaik also admitted that the matter of D voters is of concern to the Government. He assured that steps would be taken to ensure that all the genuine Indian citizens, who were identified as D voters are allowed to exercise their rights including the right to vote.

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