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HC helps restore citizenship of Assam woman declared 'foreigner' after missing court dates

HC helps restore citizenship of Assam woman declared foreigner after missing court dates

Silchar: The Gauhati High Court has assisted a tribal woman from Assam to regain her Indian citizenship after she was declared a "foreigner ex parte" due to missing court dates set by the tribunal court in Silchar district in 2017.

On September 19, 2017, Foreigners Tribunal 6 declared Sefali Rani Das, a 23-year-old woman from Mohankhal village of Sonai in Cachar district, a foreigner ex parte (without her being present), the Indian Express reported.

Das had submitted an appeal before the High Court on July 2021, arguing that she had not been well-versed in legal provisions and so had missed court dates set by the tribunal to instate her citizenship. She had also not received any proper legal advice from her counsel, she alleged. This was backed up by her current lawyer, Mahitosh Das.

"She comes from a very poor family and is the wife of a teacher who is now out of a job. They do not understand most of this. That is why there was so much confusion," he said.

As per the FT's observations, Das had failed to appear before the Tribunal on fives dates between February and September 2017.

The Gauhati HC then gave her another chance to prove citizenship before the tribunal this year, stating that "citizenship" was a "very important right of a person", which "should ordinarily be decided on merit rather than by way of default as has happened in the present case." Last Tuesday, her citizenship was re-instated by the Silchar court on the basis of "cogent, reliable and admissible evidence" submitted by her.

"She has clearly been able to establish the presence of her grandfather on Indian soil, relatable to the period prior to 25.03.1971 with valid linkage documents of a father as well as herself in accordance with law," Dharmananda Deb, a member (judge) of the tribunal, wrote in his opinion, as quoted by the Indian Express. March 25, 1971, is the cut-off date to prove citizenship in Assam.

Das claims her grandfather, Dulrabram Das, had entered India following religious persecution in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1950. While he initially lived in Choto Dudhpatil under Silchar Police Station, he later moved to Mohankal, when he acquired land and property.

Initially, the state had argued that since there was no written statement of declaration of the documents submitted, it was not possible to prove linkage. However, the tribunal cited an earlier Gauhati High Court order that said lack of written statement was not a reason to "disbelieve" documents.

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TAGS:High CourtsAssamCitizenshipIndiaCitizenship Act
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