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Assam: Despite being in draft NRC, paralysed man declared ‘foreigner’

The petitioner had filed the writ petition before the High Court on November 9, 2018, and it was dismissed on December 10, 2018.

Assam: Despite being in draft NRC, paralysed man declared ‘foreigner’
Photo: AFP

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on July 3 issued a notice to the Centre and the Assam government and sought their response within three weeks on a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by a paralysed man who has been declared a foreigner by a tribunal and is facing eminent deportation to Bangladesh.

The petitioner – Azizul Hoque, a resident of Nagaon district’s Singi Pathar village – who has been languishing in a detention centre since March 24, 2017, was declared a foreigner by a tribunal in Assam through ex-parte proceedings after he failed to appear before it because of lower-limb paralysis after he met with an accident.

The tribunal’s order was later upheld by the Gauhati High Court on the ground that neither he nor his representative appeared before the tribunal. Notably, Hoque’s name along with his other family members, is figured in the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) as a citizen of the country.

Appearing for Hoque, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and lawyer Anas Tanwir have argued in the SLP that the High Court dismissed the writ petition filed by the petitioner despite “accepting the medical certificate, certifying him to be suffering from lower limb paralysis”.

The High Court – alleged the petition – rejected the writ petition on “hyper-technical standards applied to civil proceedings pertaining to the determination of Indian Citizenship”.

The only ground on which a citizenship of the petitioner was taken away – said the petition – was his inability to depute someone to appear in his stead before the Foreigners Tribunal.

“Having perused the said medical certificate and also having noticed the fact that the writ petitioner/opposite party had appeared before the learned tribunal in the proceeding and had also filed a written representation on 13.04.2010, which would indicate that the writ petitioner/opposite party had the knowledge of the ongoing proceeding before the Tribunal, we are of the view that the writ petitioner/opposite party may have been sick as certified by the doctor but in all prudence the writ petitioner/opposite party ought to have made alternative arrangements for causing appropriate representation before the Tribunal for considering all aspects of his case…,” the High Court had said in the operative part of its judgment, declaring Haque a foreigner.

The petitioner had filed the writ petition before the High Court on November 9, 2018, and it was dismissed on December 10, 2018.

Advocate Anas Tanwir told NewsClick that Hoque had to remain present before the tribunal during the proceedings because only he could have answered the questions being put to him. “But he (Hoque) could not do so because he was suffering from lower limb paralysis,” he argued.

He alleged that the petitioner was declared a foreigner through an ex-parte order “without even considering any evidence that may have created a doubt with regard to the citizenship of the petitioner. The tribunal did not seek any evidence or testimony from the State”.

Hoque’s review petition, filed in the tribunal on April 10, 2017, was dismissed on July 9, 2018 allegedly “without taking into consideration the medical certificate of a government hospital and on completely untenable ground”.

Declaring Haque a foreign national, the tribunal had stated, “The facts of the present petition, we have already noticed that the order passed on dated 16/06/2011 and petitioner filed petition on dated 12/04/2017 for vacating the ex-parte and same order was put up by the tribunal on 24/05/2017. Therefore, on a thorough consideration of the matter, we have no hesitation to think that petitioners are trying to confuse and delay the proceeding by taking untenable ground.”

Advocate Tanwir said that “neither the tribunal nor the High Court appreciated that the petitioner has produced ‘jamabandi’ (land revenue) documents in name of his grandfather issued by the Deputy Commissioner, Nagaon, in 1941-42 along with voter lists excerpts of 1965 showing name of his grandfather, grandmother, father and mother”.

The petitioner had produced the school certificate issued by Arabari Balak Muktab School (No. 277), certifying his date of birth to be March 5, 1978. The names of his father, mother, grandfather and grandmother were recorded in the electoral rolls of 1965 and 1970. The names of his mother, brother and sister were recorded in the voters’ list of 1989 and 1997. His names along with his family members were also recorded in the voters’ list of 2005 and 2011.

On March 12, 2017, the petitioner was issued a medical certificate by the Medical and Health Officer-1, BP Civil Hospital, Morigaon, certifying that he was suffering from left lower limb paralysis since April 15, 2010 to March 12, 2017.

The Supreme Court is monitoring the National Register of Citizens updation process. It had already made clear that it would not extend the July 31 deadline for publication of the final NRC list in the state.

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