In foreigners’ tribunals of Assam, 7 Muslim lawyers replaced with Hindus

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In a much-criticized move, seven Muslim Assistant Government Pleaders (AGPs) at one of the Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) in Dhubri district of Assam state of India were replaced by seven advocates of the Hindu community, reported The Print.

The tribunals are quasi judicial bodies reviewing cases of those whose citizenship has been marked suspect by the Assam Border Police Organisation, and of those left out of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list. As seven were removed and replaced by advocates belonging to the Hindu community, the move has sparked allegations of “bias and discrimination” in the process, the report said.

On 8 September, a notification signed by the state’s joint secretary, announced a termination of the services of AGPs identified as Aminul Islam, Kamal Hussain Ahmed, Rabial Hoque Mandal, Aftab Uddin Ahmed, Sahabul Ahmed and Motiur Rahman Paramanik.

The seven members, according to the report, have been replaced by Rituparna Guha, Gokul Chandra Karmakar, Adhir Chandra Roy, Aninda Paul, Shankar Prasad Chakraborty, Ananda Kumar Rai and Sangita Koeri at different FTs in Dhubri district. Assam currently has 100 FTs across the state, and there are several Muslim AGPs serving in them.

In this regard, the Dhubri district, Assam Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna, has termed it “just a normal government notification”. “The termination notice comes before the expiry of my present term,” said Hussain Ahmed told The Print.

As the move was opposed and other affected lawyers have also questioned the decision.

Meanwhile, according to the report, Abhijeet Sharma of the Assam Public Works (APW), who is a petitioner in the NRC case in the Supreme Court, welcomed the decision.

“If the state has found discrepancies in their functioning, it is a right decision as FT courts have an important role to play in the issue of illegal immigration. Many a time, an innocent has been declared non-citizen while the one who is possibly a foreigner remains undetected,” he said.

“We had always suspected that names of illegal immigrants have been included in the final NRC. Former state NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela had told the court that there was no need for 10% re-verification in all districts because he had already done 27% re-verification. In Dhubri district, 38% re-verification was done. As many as 4,096 people were excluded,” Sharma added according to the report.

Dhubri district has a total of 10 FTs under it. While the AGPs in seven FTs have been replaced, sources told The Print that no replacement has been made in FT 7 where Chandan Debnath continues to serve as the AGP, while a vacant AGP post in FT 6 was filled with the appointment of Sujit Kumar Saha, according to a notification issued under ‘Orders by the Governor’.

If anyone loses a case in FT, they can move the high court and then even the Supreme Court with necessary evidence to prove citizenship. But the FTs themselves have come under the scanner due to their functioning

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