GUWAHATI, June 29 - United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur's letter to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on issues related to the update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the 'D' voter is retorted by senior jurists here. While some of them have termed it unjustified, some others have denounced it as a direct interference in the internal matters of a sovereign country.
On June 11, four UN Special Rapporteurs - Fernand de Varennes, E Tendayi Achiume, Daid Kaye and Ahmed Shaheed - in a letter sought the Government of India (GoI)'s response within 60 days on eight different allegations of 'wrongdoing' in connection with the NRC update process.
The Rapporteurs alleged that the NRC Coordinator had misinterpreted the May 2, 2017 Gauhati High Court (GHC) order directing the border police to open inquiries concerning relatives of those persons declared foreigners by the tribunals. They further said the NRC Coordinator's misinterpretation may lead to "wrongful exclusion of close to two million names from the NRC, without prior investigation and trial". They sought data from the GoI on the ethnicity and religion of those persons whose names would be excluded from the final NRC draft as well as those declared foreigners by the Foreigners' Tribunals and asked as to why the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 excluded Bengali Muslims.
"We express concern at the continued practice of the Election Commission of identifying a large number of Bengali people as 'doubtful or disputed voters', effectively depriving them of the right to political participation and representation," they said.
Reacting to it, former GHC Judge BP Kotokey asserted that India as a sovereign country has every right to decide who is its citizen and who is not. Outsiders have no right to dictate terms on such matters, he said.
Kotokey said the NRC is being updated to distinguish between citizens and foreigners. The Supreme Court described illegal migration as an "external aggression" in the Sarbananda Sonowal versus GoI and others case on the IMDT Act. "We need to find out the foreigners to save ourselves," he added.
All persons, irrespective of religious allegiance, if they are not Indians, should not expect their names to be on the NRC, said the former Judge.
Senior high court advocate Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury maintained that the UN should not interfere in India's internal matters. India has enough provisions - both legally and socially - as a democratic country to solve any problems arising out of the NRC update process and the Foreigners' Tribunals. "Moreover, our judiciary is strong enough to tackle all such issues and we have full trust in our judicial system," he said.
Another senior high court advocate Mrinal Kumar Choudhury said the Indian government should take a firm stand to renounce the UN letter. The letter is nothing but direct interference in the internal matters of a sovereign country, he said, adding that India has all the legal systems to provide safeguard to its citizens.
If the interest of any of its citizens is hurt, he/ she may move the judiciary for remedy but the Rapporteurs have undermined this, he also said.
The Rapporteurs have also ignored the fact that the indigenous peoples of Assam are facing serious threat to their existence. This is also a serious human rights issue, but the Rapporteurs have overlooked it, he said.
Kamal Nayan Choudhury, another senior high court advocate, said the Rapporteurs' latter has no legal sanction, as it is an interference in the sovereign functions of India.