The Gauhati high court overturned a controversial 2019 foreigners tribunal order in Assam.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Gauhati high court overturned a controversial 2019 foreigners tribunal order in Assam.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Can’t deny citizenship for failure to explain link with a relative: HC

  • According to the 1985 Assam Accord, anyone staying in the state prior to March 24, 1971 or with verifiable lineage to people residing in the state on or before that is an Indian citizen—a requirement also accepted for inclusion in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) .
By Utpal Parashar, Guwahati
UPDATED ON APR 13, 2021 12:21 AM IST

Not explaining links to some relatives shouldn’t adversely affect individuals’ claim to citizenship or be grounds to declare them foreigners, the Gauhati high court ruled, overturning a controversial 2019 foreigners tribunal order in Assam.

According to the 1985 Assam Accord, anyone staying in the state prior to March 24, 1971 or with verifiable lineage to people residing in the state on or before that is an Indian citizen—a requirement also accepted for inclusion in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) .

In August 2019, nearly 1.9 million people were excluded from NRC for failing to prove their or ancestors’ residency in Assam before the cutoff date. Those declared foreigners by foreigners’ tribunals (as well their relatives) were also left out. Foreigners tribunals are quasi-judicial courts set up to hear citizenship claims of people flagged by state and election officials as possible outsiders.

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The court junked a tribunal order that declared an Assam resident a foreigner because he didn’t explain his lineage thoroughly enough and did not elaborate his relationship with some relatives of his mentioned in the same voters list of 1970 that mentioned his grandparents.

“Non explanation of the relationship of the petitioner with other persons mentioned in the voters list of 1970 cannot be a ground for disbelieving the correctness of the entry of the names of the grandparents in the voters list, when the correctness of the entry of the names of the petitioner’s father and grandfather was not questioned,” the court said in its order passed on March 30 but made public on Monday.

In 2019, a foreigners’ tribunal in Barpeta district termed Haider Ali an illegal immigrant and declared him a foreigner.

Ali, 33, submitted documents showing names of his grandparents in voters’ lists of 1965 and 1970, copies of voters list of 1989 showing his parents names as well as certified copies of subsequent voters’ lists showing his name along with those of his parents. The tribunal didn’t rebut the admissibility of these documents and also didn’t reject them, but based on evidence on record, it held that Ali was not able to prove himself an Indian under section 9 of the Foreigners Act, and declared him a foreigner. The tribunal said that Ali did not mention his relationship to five other persons, whose names appeared along with grandparents in the copies of voters list of 1970 submitted by him, and that, as a result, he was a foreigner.

Ali challenged the order in Gauhati HC in 2019. In an order issued on March 30, a division bench of justice N Kotishwar Singh and Justice Manish Chowdhury held the tribunal’s order as wrong. “Non-explanation of the linkage of the petitioner with others...does not affect the credibility or genuineness of the evidence,” it ruled.

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