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Gauhati HC asks Assam govt to review orders of Foreigners' Tribunals

IANS | December 03, 2023 12:19 PM

GUWAHATI: Forhad Ali, a resident of Assam’s Bongaigaon, was declared foreigner by a tribunal after noting that his father’s name was written Habi Rahman and Habibur Rahman in different documents.

The order was passed against Ali by a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) at least four years ago. He then approached the Gauhati High Court, challenging the FT’s judgment.

Recently, the High Court observed that there can be minor discrepancies in the name of a person, and this cannot be the only basis to declare a person a foreigner.

As per the court, there must be enough evidence that the two names actually resemble different people.

Moreover, the state government has submitted an affidavit before the High Court stating that in at least 85 per cent of cases where people are declared foreigners illegally staying in India were later found to be Indian citizens.

Noting the affidavit, the High Court has directed the state government in a recent order to review the orders passed by various Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) in the state.

A Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) is a quasi-judicial body, and a member of the FT has a designation similar to that of a judge. The tribunal hears the cases of suspected illegal immigrants and passes orders about their citizenship.

The Assam Home Department said before the court that in about 85 per cent of cases that are referred to Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT), the petitioners were declared citizens later.

The High Court bench voiced concern that individuals may have been labeled as foreigners in several instances without providing justification or doing a thorough analysis of the documentation in existence.

The court also said that it was possible for foreigners to have been mistakenly identified as Indians by the tribunals.

The Home Department was mandated by the HC to furnish tribunal verdicts based on a randomised sample.

The records reveal that many of the decisions were made without providing justification or reviewing the records, even if some of them were "good, reasoned orders."

The order passed by a High Court bench comprising justices Achintya Malla Bujor Barua and Mitali Thakuria said: “We require the secretary to the government of Assam in the Home Department to conduct a departmental review of all such references that had been answered by the tribunals declaring the proceedees to be citizens.”

The court also directed the government to take “appropriate measures” where it was noticed that orders were passed without citing reasons or analysing materials.

“The result thereof shall be put up in the public domain or before the people of the state for their knowledge, as the matter of illegal immigrants in Assam is an issue that may affect the entire state, ” the order further read.

Meanwhile, two judges’ bench of the Gauhati High Court sent the case of Forhad Ali back to the Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT), directing it to re-examine all records, including voter lists, before making a final decision.

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