In Conversation with Mr. Sanjay Vashishtha – Criminal Law Policy and Reforms
October 17, 2018
October 23, 2018

In Conversation with Mr. Fuzail Ayyubi – NRC, Refugee Convention and Freedom of Expression

Mr. Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi is currently Advocate on Record, Supreme Court of India. He has played an active role as the counsel in National Registration (NRC), Assam case. He has also delivered talks on the matter of Refugee rights in India. In recent conversation with IJLPP, he talks about how India needs to show commitment to human rights for consolidating its claim at UNSC, role of legal aid in better legal system, his believe in “Insaaf se Vikaas” and much more. 
Q. To start with, you have been part of the litigation which concerns National Register for Citizens. What do you think where will this lead to as we are still waiting for the final draft of NRC and there is so much of confusion among the people regarding their rights?
The demand has been on ground for a long time. The protests became violent gradually and after 1970s protest Assam Accord was finalized.  The cut-off date was finalized as 24 March 1971. Then protests and agitation gradually decreased. This time Assam Parishad was also formed. The peace was there for a long time, but the exercise was overdue. Governments were slow in procedure and gradually the causalities increased. In recent NRC list, parents are part of it but daughters and sisters have been left out. Even government servants are excluded. Absurd results have been thrown.  The Supreme Court has even said that why don’t the government check the people left first. I hope ample opportunity will be given family(s).
Q. The procedure which has been adopted by NRC to verify citizenship is being questioned and remedies available for people whose name do not appear is also cumbersome. What do you think could have been better approach for this?
Different modalities were formulated when National Register for citizens was launched. A notification for inviting application was also made. Standard Procedure kept changing to last stage. Today there is no Standard Operating Procedure. Union of India submitted standard operating procedure but still 40 lakh people remain uncovered. So, a new standard procedure will still need to be formulated. The process is little disconnected, and people feel anxiety about it and thus, the process is faulty.
Q. India is not signatory of refugee convention and this issue has been raised since many years. What do you think should be done in this regard?
United Nations Convention and Protocol are not signed by India. We have standard of procedure there which provides for long term visas. India provide for two entitlements to them:
  1. Private sector job
  2. education institutions
India aspires to be a member of United Nations Security Council. We need better conventions and consolidate our claim for leader of South Asia. Recently, 7 people were again expelled. In larger perspective we need to be accommodative if India wants to consolidate itself as global power.

 Q. The Supreme Court has previously dealt with the similar matter in Chakma Case. How is the matter of Chakma different from NRC?
Matters of Chakma and Tibetan refugee were limited to point of time. NRC gives cut-off date of March 24, 1971. In NRC case, we are talking of only four corners of law i.e., prior to 1971. We are not talking of people who came there to post-1971. People have lived there for 40 years but no rights are accrued to them.
Q. Recently, you appeared for a case relating to religious practice which was concerned with “Mata ki Chowki”. Do you think that Supreme Court should re-consider the concept of essential practice or courts should abstain from going into this domain?
In Sabarimala, HMJ. Chandrachud has commented upon the constitutional framework in which the religion exists. We as a country have strong religious roots. No constitution in the world prescribes for Schedules Castes and Tribes but we have the same. In normal situations, court will not be interested this. In Ismail Farooqui and M. Siddiq, the Supreme Court has dealt with it and infinitely diluted it but said that essentiality is to be seen in context of that religion and not Article 14. Sabarimala has shifted it a bit and right now as the condition exists courts have more strong hold on the essential practices. 
Q. For this issue some fake news was also carried against you? What do you suggest should be steps taken for tackling fake news and how citizens can help in this?
Sooner or later paid news has to be dealt with. Lawyers are there to defend the rule of law. We may have different religion or backgrounds but have same principles to follow. We are wearing black coats to uphold the rule of law. If politics is mixed with religion, it is a recipe of disaster. Rule of law is there to stay forever. If a layman tries to read this fake news, it may have wrong influence. In my case, a citizen helped me, and this shows that an aware citizen is required along with a proper mechanism to uphold the rule of law.
 Q. The Freedom of expression has been in question in past few years. The state is arguing that this right is subject to restriction. What do you suggest regarding the approach which has been taken by the court as in the case of Bhima-Koregaon?
There is a need of maturity in democracy and polity. HMJ Chandrachud says in his judgment that one should not stifle the voices, otherwise the cooker will burst. No imputation with narrow thoughts should be done. We are a free country which cherishes Liberty. If somebody is trying to stifle these voices, constitutionalism needs to be defended. The ability to make free expression is the fountain head of Liberty.
Q. It is said that justice system is only for rich people and despite having provision for legal aid in the Constitution we have not been able to provide legal access to all. What do you suggest that should be done for providing equal justice for all?
Development of our country does not depend on investment but justice. It is said “Insaaf se Vikaas”. If investor or local businessmen have perception the justice will be delivered, and I will get speedy justice, it will be development. Justice is the hallmark of development. But how to do it? India is a large country and new cases are filed every day and such filing is increasing. Abilities of the courts have remained the same. How can such constant apparatus handle so many cases? When district courts are there for every district, no new infrastructure is coming up. More judges and more courts are required. Private parties cannot help in this matter as duty lies on the state. Most of the interaction is done at the lowest level that is at District Court but they you see 4 dates in a year. How will such courts deliver then? State will have to increase its apparatus and not only that but modernization is primary in this process. We have the world’s finest judges, but numbers fail them.

The Interview was taken by Pranav Tanwar (Editor in Chief, Volume V Issue I) and Saurabh Pandey (Publishing Editor, Volume V Issue I)

1 Comment

  1. Naeem Qamar Siddiqui says:

    Very proud of you with what you are doing.

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