Citizenship an important right: Gauhati HC sets aside order of Foreigners’ Tribunal

Express News Service

GUWAHATI:  The Gauhati High Court has set aside an ex-parte order issued by a Foreigners’ Tribunal that declared one Asor Uddin as a foreigner.

A two-judge bench of justices Manish Choudhury and N Kotiswar Singh observed that citizenship should be decided on the basis of merit by considering the material evidences that may be adduced by the person concerned and not by way of default as happened in this case.

Asor Uddin had filed a petition in the court after the Foreigners’ Tribunal of Morigaon declared him a foreigner. He had missed multiple hearings at the tribunal and failed to produce documentary evidence to establish his citizenship. The Tribunal declared him a foreigner ex-parte (without being heard) on April 26, 2011.

“The plea of the petitioner for his inability to appear before the Foreigners’ Tribunal is that the petitioner is a very poor person and he could not readily collect the relevant documents bearing the names of his grandfather, father and also in respect of him for filing the written statement and as such, the petitioner did not appear before the Tribunal,” the court said.

The petitioner submitted that he could not communicate with his counsel nor the latter communicated with him in connection with the dates of hearing fixed by the Tribunal. He submitted that he had to leave the state for Kerala for earning a livelihood.

He further submitted that the case against him was lodged without proper examination of his documents. However, on receipt of the notice from the Tribunal, he had appeared on February 12, 2010.

Thereafter, several dates were given by the Tribunal for filing of written statement on certain facts but the petitioner failed to do so and as a result, the impugned ex-parte order was passed.

“However, we are of the view that citizenship, being an important right of a person, ordinarily, should be decided on the basis of merit by considering the material evidences that may be adduced by the person concerned and not by way of default as happened in the present case,” the division bench said.

“In the present case, the petitioner has drawn our attention to the voters’ lists of 1965, 1970 and 1971, wherein the names of his grandparents, parents and the petitioner himself have been shown to be included…There are sufficient documents and evidences to prove that he is an Indian citizen. However, these are factual aspects which are to be ordinarily considered by the Foreigners’ Tribunal…,” the court said.

It directed him to appear before the Tribunal on or before November 8 to prove he is an Indian.

“However, since his citizenship has come under cloud, he will remain on bail…on furnishing a bail bond of Rs 5,000 with a local surety of the like amount.

“…We also make it clear that in the event of failure to pay the aforesaid cost of Rs 5,000/- as well as in the failure to appear before the Foreigners’ Tribunal, Morigaon, on or before 08.11.2021, the impugned ex-parte order which has been set aside will stand revived and the law will take its own course,” the court said.