The Gauhati High Court has set aside the order of a Foreigner’s Tribunal (FT) declaring a retired army man of Assam as an illegal migrant.
FTs are quasi-judicial bodies that decide the citizenship status of persons living in Assam who are suspected to be foreigners.
Stating that the reference made to the FT by an Electoral Registration Officer in the case of the retired defence employee was due to an absolute non-application of mind’, the high court imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 on the ERO.
The amount would be paid to the petitioner for causing inconvenience to him.
The 85-year-old Jagat Bahadur Chetri was referred to the FT of Kamrup (Metro) by the ERO during spot verification, with the Tribunal subsequently passing an ex-parte judgement on January 10, 2012, declaring him a foreigner of the post-1971 stream.
As per the Assam Accord, persons entering the state after March 25, 1971, are deemed illegal migrants.
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Chetri had filed a writ petition in the high court against the reference made by the ERO and the subsequent FT order.
A bench comprising justices Achintya Malla Bujor Barua and Robin Phukan, in the order, said, ” we are of the view that it was an absolute non-application of mind on the part of the ERO of 52 Dispur Legislative Assembly Constituency to have referred the petitioner to the Foreigners Tribunal for an opinion as to whether the petitioner Jagat Bahadur Chetri is a foreigner who entered the State of Assam subsequent to 25.03.1971″ from the specified territory.”
The court noted that the ERO had mentioned in his records that Chetri was born in Assam’s Dibrugarh in 1937 but there is no material to prove that he migrated after that and re-entered the state after March 25, 1971.
Pointing out that Chetri had served in the Army from 1963 to 2001, it said in the order: ” we are of the view that the reference itself is not maintainable in law.”
The high court in its February 20 judgment also added that Chetri shall be entitled to all rights and privileges as a citizen of India as may be admissible under the law.