‘Not an Indian’: Avtar Henry’s vote cancelled again, cannot contest Punjab polls
Former Punjab Congress minister Avtar Henry has been rendered ineligible to contest polls as his vote was cancelled on Thursday because he is yet to get back his Indian citizenship that was cancelled owing to his having a British passport. The decision was taken by the poll returning officer (RO) of the Jalandhar North assembly segment, from where Henry has won four times but lost in 2012.punjab Updated: Jan 06, 2017 01:35 IST
Former Punjab Congress minister Avtar Henry has been rendered ineligible to contest polls as his vote was cancelled on Thursday because he is yet to get back his Indian citizenship that was cancelled owing to his having a British passport. The decision was taken by the poll returning officer (RO) of the Jalandhar North assembly segment, from where Henry has won four times but lost in 2012.
His voting right was challenged by three persons in the past one month alone, arguing that Henry’s Indian citizenship was cancelled by the Union home ministry in 2012, after it had come to light that he had acquired a British passport in 1969 when he was working in England. Later, when Henry moved back to India, he got an Indian passport.
Though the issue had made headlines and his vote was cancelled earlier too — putting a question mark on how he had managed to vote and fight polls in the past — the latest row began on November 3, 2016, after assistant RO Paramjit Singh Sahota re-registered him as voter on the basis of a “temporary” passport. Henry — who argues that he never misused the British passport and had merely been ignorant — had been given that passport on court orders after he pleaded that he needed to travel to England to visit his ailing sister.
After a probe, RO Barjinder Singh observed that orders of the ministry of home affairs (foreigner division), on August 16, 2012, to cancel his vote and passport still stood, and as such he is yet to get back his Indian citizenship. The RO has also asked for cancellation of his temporary passport now.
RPO ‘created confusion’
The probe held the regional passport officer (RPO), Jalandhar, for “creating confusion” in the case by expressly mentioning Henry as “citizen of India” on the temporary passport renewed on July 20 last. It must be noted that RPO Harmanbir Singh Gill is a brother of former Congress MLA Jasvir Singh Dimpa.
Legal opinion by the district attorney in the case also asked “how the RPO entertained the application of Henry and declared him as Indian citizen while the order of the Union Home Ministry has already ordered ceasing of the Indian citizenship”. The probe has recommended cancellation of the temporary passport issued to Henry.
But, even as the probe found “fraud” by Henry in giving a self-declaration that he is an Indian, no action has been recommended on that count. Even the assistant RO, who enrolled Henry as voter, faces no action.
Bittu’s road clear for North?
The Congress is yet to announce its candidate from Jalandhar North, from where BJP’s KD Bhandari defeated Henry the last time. Ticket contenders included former improvement trust chairman Tajinder Bittu and Henry’s son, Bawa Henry. Since state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh is learnt to be not in favour of Henry’s son, Bittu finally may have his chance, after all.