“Citizenship Is One Of The Most Important Rights Of A Person” : Gauhati HC

The case was that of one, Rahima Khatun who was declared a foreigner by the Foreigners Tribunal, Dhubri in Assam dated 9th June 2016

The Gauhati High Court recently set aside a Foreign Tribunal’s order which declared an Assam woman as a foreigner and observed that citizenship is one of the most important rights of an individual. The Court also said thatany question arising about the citizenship of a person must be adjudicated on the basis of merits on hearing the person concerned.”

Many people have been tagged as ‘foreigners’ after the Assam NRC exercise in 2019.

The case was that of one, Rahima Khatun who was declared a foreigner by the Foreigners Tribunal, Dhubri dated 9th June 2016. The Court said that according to the petitioner, upon receiving the notice from the tribunal, her son appeared on behalf of the petitioner without her knowledge. He, however, neglected to appear before the Tribunal on various dates fixed by them, which led to the passing of the ex-parte order.

A division bench comprising of Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Soumitra Saikia observed that


“By virtue of citizenship, one becomes a member of a sovereign country and becomes entitled to various rights and privileges granted by law in the country and, as such, if any question arises about the citizenship of a person, in our opinion, the same should be adjudicated as far as possible on the basis of merit and on hearing the person concerned.”


Foreigner Tribunals, simply put, are quasi-judicial bodies who play a crucial role in determining whether a person is a foreigner or not, in line with the Foreigners Act 1946. Post the NRC exercise in Assam in 2019 and complaints of citizens being excluded from the final list, the foreigner tribunals have a lot of applications to process at their disposal.

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According to The Indian Express, till July 31, 2020, FTs have received 4.34 lakh cases, of which over 2 lakh have been disposed of. The over 19 lakh people excluded in the final NRC published in August 2019 will get a chance to appeal against their exclusions at the state’s FTs.

In a separate case, Gauhati HC also granted relief to Haidar Ali, a man who was tagged as a foreigner by the FT after the NRC, on grounds of having not been able to establish with five or more people other than his grandparents whose name was in the voter roll in 1970, before the cutoff date.

The High Court, while asking the Tribunal to reconsider its opinion on Khatun’s citizenship, has asked her to appear before the Tribunal on or before May 5.

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