The Supreme Court has allowed a woman who was declared foreigner in Assam, to file for review of the Guwahati High Court which upheld the Foreigners Tribunal order. Jasmin Begum was declared foreigner by a Foreigners Tribunal in January 2019 and the order was upheld by the High Court after hearing the writ petition filed against it. Thus, the petitioner approached the apex court but withdrew, while seeking permission to file a review petition before the high court first.
The bench headed by CJI SA Bobde and comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian allowed withdrawal on this ground while allowing the petitioner liberty to come back to the Supreme Court in case she does not receive a favourable order in her review petition.
Begum had submitted 11 documents to prove her Indian citizenship before the Foreigners Tribunal, Morigaon. The Tribunal observed that Jasmin in her deposition mentioned her mother’s name to be Sultana Mazeda and later during a court’s query said her actual name is Mazeda Sultana Begum but the name found in the 1965 voters list was Mazeda Begum and Jasmin never mentioned her mother’s name to be Mazeda Begum, observed the court. Further, Jasmin had submitted her father’s name to be Abdul Kadir and relied upon 1965 voters’ list having name A Kadir but the list did not enlist Sultana Mazeda or Mazeda Sultana Begum as spouse. Hence, the court was not convinced relying upon the voter’s list to prove citizenship in this case.
Then the Tribunal dismissed a Hand written Jamabandi of 1970 where Jasmin’s father’ name appears against a plot of land but the court held that the content of the Jamabandi was not proved by the issuing authority.
Further, Jasmin’s School leaving certificate issued by the head mistress was also not considered for proving her citizenship since the contents of the certificate were not proved by the Head Mistress. Jasmin also submitted four Gaonburah certificates of four villages with respect to her marriage, identity and residence but the court observed that the contents of these certificates were not proved by the respective Gaonburahs and hence they were not acceptable. Gaonburah is a village headman who is the representative of the Government in the village.
The Tribunal thus held that Jasmin was unable to prove her citizenship through documents and also dismissed testimony of two witnesses, namely, her uncle and her husband. The tribunal stated that Jasmin failed to establish her link with her father and mother and thus she was declared a foreigner who entered India (Assam) after March 25, 1971 and the Tribunal ordered that she be deported to specified territory immediately, vide order dated January 25, 2019.
The Foreigners Tribunal Order may be read here
This order was challenged before the Guwahati High Court and vide order dated September 25, 2019, the division bench of Justices Manojit Bhuyan and Ajit Borthakur found no infirmity with the Tribunal’s order and upheld the same, dismissing the petition.
The Guwahati High Court order may be read here.
Thus, a Special leave petition was filed before the Supreme Court in which it was argued that the Tribunal took a “hyper-technical” approach while rejecting the petitioner’s claim merely because she mentioned her mother’s middle name during court proceedings and the voter’s list did not include the same. Further, her father’s name was present in the documents produced as evidence but the same was not accepted as linkage with her mother was not established. It was submitted that the Tribunal order suffered from apparent errors since the petitioner’s parents name did appear in voters list prior to 1971.
In the hearing on January 25, the counsel for the petitioner sought permission to withdraw the petition with liberty to file a review at Guwahati High Court. The court allowed the same while also stating that in case the review petition fails to give an order in favour of the petitioner, she can approach the apex court challenging the main order as well as the order arising out of the review petition.
The Supreme Court order may be read here.