New Delhi: In major relief for several of those excluded from the final Assam NRC list released on Saturday, the Ministry of External Affairs on Sunday affirmed that the state government will provide legal assistance free of cost to those in need.

In a press meet, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar assured that Assam government will provide best possible legal service, free of cost, to all those whose name was excluded from the NRC list and help them file their claim at the Foreigners Tribunal.

“State of Assam has assured the provision of free legal assistance to any person excluded from the #NRCList & who is unable to afford such legal help. It is to enable people, especially disadvantaged sections, to have access to best possible legal assistance,” he said.

Over 19.06 lakh people now need to prove they are Indian citizens, after the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list in Assam published on Saturday excluded their names, but named around 3.11 crore people as citizens of India.

A long legal battle awaits those left out of the final NRC list released at 10 am Saturday. 400 Foreigners Tribunals have been thereby set up the government to ensure that no one goes unassisted in the process to prove their citizenship. Both the BJP and the Congress plan to reach out to bonafide citizens not included in the final NRC. A number of non-governmental organisations have also declared they would help the litigants.

According to the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a non-governmental organisation, which has in the past helped people left out of the NRC draft file claims of citizenship- the legal route to prove one’s nationality could be costly with bills running up to lakhs.

A News18 report had earlier quoted an Assam State Coordinator of CJP Zamser Ali, “It may cost each claimant from minimum Rs 40,000 to several lakhs if he or she needs to take the battle to the Supreme Court. The applicant would have to bear the cost of both legal and administrative proceedings normally. While the legal expenses include the lawyer’s fees, the administrative expense would cover other paperwork and collection of relevant documents.”

Meanwhile, those excluded from the final NRC list will not be labelled as ‘foreigners’ or face deportation or sent to detention centres till they have exhausted all legal options made available to them by the Centre.