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Assam MP Abdul Khaleque seeks Foreigners’ Tribunal member Gupta’s ouster over “highly communal” letter

A Congress MP from western Assam has sought the termination of a member of a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) for a communal rider on a purported letter to State Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma outlining the donations of his staff and FT members elsewhere to the COVID-19 fund.

In a letter to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday, Abdul Khaleque, who represents the Barpeta Lok Sabha seat, said Kamalesh Kumar Gupta’s letter on April 7 listing the donations to the Assam Arogya Nidhi to combat COVID-19 was “highly communal”.

Mr. Gupta is an FT member in Baksa district. Retired judges and administrative officers as well as lawyers with at least seven years of legal practice qualify to be members of the quasi-judicial FTs that decide the fate of people suspected to be illegal immigrants.

Mr. Khaleque said Mr. Gupta’s letter on official stationery was “reprehensible” because of an accompanying request: “Our only prayer is that the help may not be extended to the members of violators of Tablighi Jamaat, jehadi and jahil”.

The MP said the letter was not expected of a civil servant of a sensitive department and had been condemned as being communal and Islamophobic in nature. It had cast doubts about Mr. Gupta’s neutrality and secular outlook while deciding the citizenship of people, he added.

“The content of the letter is in violation of sections of the Indian Penal Code that criminalise words, spoken or written, aimed at disturbing communal harmony,” Mr. Khaleque said, adding the letter that went viral on social media was particularly harmful because of anti-Muslim sentiments associated with the pandemic.

“Mr. Gupta’s anti-constitutional, communal opinions made in official writing disqualifies him as the guardian of our Constitution. If he is allowed to continue in his exercise of judicial powers as a member of the FT, it will do irreparable damage to the law of the land and the secularism that the judiciary is bound to uphold...” the MP said, pointing out to Mr. Sonowal why he deserved to be sacked.

Public apology

Mr. Gupta, who had earlier denied writing the letter and did not rule out the possibility of his signature having been used on a letter he had no idea about, said the letter listing a total donation of ₹62,999 was withdrawn soon after it was “leaked” on social media.

The letter was routed through Debajit Saikia, whose designation was shown as Additional Advocate General (AAG) of Assam. Mr. Saikia said he ceased to be the AAG since January 2019.

However, Mr. Gupta issued a public apology on April 11 saying he never wanted to disturb the social and communal harmony of the State and the country. He also said 23 Muslims and nine Hindus had been declared “not foreigners” during “my dispensation of work”.

Mr. Gupta also apologised to staff of the FT he is the member of as well as 11 other FT members mentioned in the letter. “I did not show to the (other) members any draft and did not take their consent,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2022 9:41:40 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assam-mp-abdul-khaleque-seeks-foreigners-tribunal-member-guptas-ouster-over-highly-communal-letter/article31364733.ece