Gauhati High Court finds three Foreigners’ Tribunal orders erratic

Court notes how people have been declared foreigners despite having documents

December 10, 2021 12:51 pm | Updated 12:51 pm IST - GUWAHATI:

File photo. The Gauhati High Court has picked holes in the orders of three Foreigners’ Tribunals declaring as many people as foreigners

File photo. The Gauhati High Court has picked holes in the orders of three Foreigners’ Tribunals declaring as many people as foreigners

The Gauhati High Court has, in less than a month, picked holes in the orders of three Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) declaring as many people as foreigners.

The court found these orders to be erratic, incomplete or sent to the wrong address.

In November, the court noted with concern how Puspharani Dhar, a woman in her late 70s, was harassed since 2000 when an FT in western Assam’s Bongaigaon district served her a notice. She was declared a foreigner in 2017.

The court found that Ms. Dhar had sufficient documents to prove her citizenship. These included a 1966 certificate of her father Hirendra Nath Pal from the Bengal Medical Union and papers pertaining to the employment of her husband Mrinal Kanti Dhar in the railways in 1962.

“I could have been saved the harassment had the FT examined the documents like the court,” Ms. Dhar said.

A fortnight later, the High Court found the order of a 2016 FT in southern Assam’s Hailakandi district to be incomplete. The order had declared Sukdev Ree, a tea garden worker and a resident of the district’s Mohanpur village, a foreigner, and he served imprisonment for three years.

The court directed the FT to reopen Ree’s case on December 3, days after he had died of cardiac arrest. Members of his family have been asked to appear before the FT again on December 14.

“He was declared a foreigner in an ex parte or one-sided decision. It is unfair that Indian citizens, especially illiterate or barely literate daily wagers, are given the foreigner tag when they miss a date or fail to appear for a hearing,” Silchar-based social activist, representing Ree’s family, said.

The High Court later set aside the ex parte order of an FT in southern Assam’s Cachar district against Silchar resident Jantu Das.

Mr. Das had approached the court after the tribunal notified him a foreigner in 2017 without hearing him. The court found that the FT had been sending notices to the address of another person named Sukesh Das, whose father’s name was the same as Jantu Das’s.

The FT had ruled that Mr. Das was given several opportunities over a 10-year period to produce evidence to establish his citizenship but did not appear before the tribunal.

“After going through the documents submitted, we have learnt that the petitioner never received any notice from the foreigners’ tribunal and, as such, the ex parte order is illegal and liable to be set aside,” the Bench comprising judges N. Kotiswar Singh and Malashri Nandi observed.

The court also noted the appellant’s assertion that he has “sufficient” documentary evidence to establish his Indian citizenship and ordered the FT to hear his case afresh from January 1, 2022.

Earlier in November, the High Court allowed five declared foreigners – couple Rajendra and Renubala Das and their three minor children – to prove their identity as Indians. A Cachar district FT had declared them foreigners in an ex parte order in January 2018.

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