Shortage of legal stamp papers hits Gauhati High Court post NRC Final Draft
GUWAHATI: The final draft of the National Register of Citizens has not just left 40,07,707 applicants (those whose name did not appear in the final draft published on July 30) in limbo, but has created inconvenience for those who need to frequent the Gauhati High Court for legal work too.
The filing of affidavits has risen exponentially since the NRC exercise had started leading to an imminent shortage of the legal stamp papers, a necessity in filing any affidavit, at the Gauhati High Court, which is also the high court for Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
While there was a major scarcity of the same during 2013 and 2015 – the time period during which people were allowed to file their applications to be included in the NRC, speculations are rife that people have again emptied the stamp paper bank of the High Court anticipating that they may have to file affidavits for the claim, objection and correction purposes.
The NRC 1951 is being updated in Assam under the supervision of the Supreme Court of India with midnight of March 25, 1971 base date and the final draft of the same has been released in which, 40,07,707 persons did not find their names. The state coordinator’s office had, on August 10, released the reasons why their names were not included and will start taking claims, objections and corrections soon hereafter.
“To file an affidavit for the NRC or any legal works, one will have to attach legal stamp papers with it. Also, a legal stamp paper can be purchased by anybody from the vendors at the court. We are thinking that the extreme shortage of legal stamp papers is due to the NRC update only. People might have already brought the stamp papers apprehending that during the submission of claims, objections and corrections, they will have to use the same in the affidavits,” Mausam Khaund, a member of Gauhati High Court Bar Association said.
The bar association had, three months ago, protested regarding the shortage of stamp papers and filed a memorandum to the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court.
“We were told that the scarcity is due to the NRC update purpose. So, we will wait till the last date of the claims and objection. Even after that, if the scarcity continues, we will protest again,” Amal Baishya, general secretary of Lawyers' Association, said.
The legal stamp papers have to be collected from the district treasury office by the High Court’s registered vendors.
There is a certain quota of stamp papers that are allotted for High Courts, district courts and CJM’s office.
Black marketing of legal stamp papers speculated
Every time the crisis of legal stamp papers hits the Gauhati High Court, its prices increase exponentially - a phenomenon that many wonder is due to the involvement of a black marketing racket.
According to a peon in the Gauhati High Court, the prices have been known to increase 10 times during the crisis period.
“The Rs 10 stamp paper becomes Rs 100 whereas the Rs 50 becomes Rs 500. It only happens when there is a crisis. Otherwise, the price remains the same at other times,” said H Medhi, a peon here.
According to employees who work in the court, shortage of legal stamp papers for about one or two months is a regular affair, but this year, the shortage is set to last for more than six months.
“Every year, from February, we have a dearth of legal stamp papers. This mostly includes Rs 10 and Rs 20 legal stamp papers. This year, however, the shortage is lasting longer. According to other court personnel, it will last till September this time,” an employee in the registrar’s office of Gauhati High Court said under condition of anonymity.
The lawyer's association too did not rule out the possibility of black marketing.
“There is no regulation over the purchase of legal stamp papers. To acquire these is part of a person's legal rights.
So, it is only possible that a certain racket purchases in bulk from the vendors during times of crisis and then sells those at a higher rate. The vendors cannot be blamed either, as they are bound to sell those,” Baishya said.
“We will however, wait till the NRC claims and objections are over. If the problem is not solved by then, we will ask the High Court to come up with a holistic solution. Till then, we all have to endure a bit,” he added.
Meanwhile, people are irritated with the exorbitant rates of the legal stamp papers.
“For each affidavit, we need at least two such stamp papers. If we are submitting a case at the High Court, these stamp papers are a necessity. For my case, I had to spend at least Rs 2000 to Rs 2500 on the stamp papers only. How can a common man incur such expenses?” Swapan Mazumdar, a city-based businessman said.