Raising serious doubts over the nationality of controversial Congress MP from Tezpur in Assam Mani Kumar Subba, the Supreme Court on Friday said it was for him to prove that he was an Indian citizen.
Observing that the allegations against the lottery baron were "serious" in nature, a Bench of Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan and Justice DK Jain also pulled up the CBI for failing to give a clear finding on Subba's nationality.
"Show your identity. Where were you born? Where did you study? You must be having date of birth certificate or school certificates or any other document in support of your claim of being an Indian," the Bench sought to know from senior counsel AM Singhvi, who represented Subba.
"Your credentials are highly suspicious…We don't approve of all the allegations but major portions (of the allegations) are prima facie true. We have to look into it," the court observed.
Maintaining that under the Citizenship Act, it was for the person accused of being a foreign national to prove otherwise, it directed Subba to produce within six weeks whatever documents he had in support of his claim of being an Indian citizen.
The court was hearing a PIL filed in 2005 by one Birendra Nath Singh, who accused Subba of crossing over to India and illegally acquiring Indian citizenship after being convicted in a murder case in Nepal in the 1970s.
Seeking a CBI probe into Subha's antecedents, Singh alleged that Subba was a citizen of Nepal, born in Teplejum district, and that his original name was Maniraj Limbo who was convicted of a murder. Alleging that Subba was still registered as a voter in Nepal's Dhobi Ghat district, he wanted Subba to be de-seated and proceeded against in accordance with the law.
Taking exception to the CBI in its report that "there was nothing to establish that he was a Nepalese citizen", the Bench lambasted the agency for failing to give a clear finding on Subba's nationality. "CBI has not proceeded in the right direction," the court observed.
When Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian said that Subba was not an Indian citizen and that the CBI also tried to verify things from Nepal and Interpol, the Bench said "first find out what is in India and then go to Nepal."
Interestingly, the CBI said that certain documents filed by Subba with the Returning Officer at the time of filing of his nomination for Lok Sabha elections were missing.
The court sought to know why the agency did not ask him the basic questions relating to his place of birth and schooling. "We are sorry to say that it is the CBI affidavit that is giving rise to certain doubts about it," the Bench said.
The court also rejected Singhvi's submission that it was a witch-hunt aimed at maligning Subba. "CBI has been unable to find out whether you are an Indian citizen," it noted.
The court had in January 2006 asked the Union Home Ministry to verify Subba's antecedents.
Earlier, the Union Home Ministry had referred the matter to the CBI in 1997 after Assam Chief Minister wrote to the Prime Minister in the wake of allegations that Subba was not an Indian and was also funding certain insurgent groups in the North East.
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