The Gauhati High Court on Tuesday criticised the foreigners’ tribunals in Assam for declaring people as non-citizens merely on the basis of doubts about the veracity of documents that they presented, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench of Justices N Kotiswar Singh and Malasri Nandi was hearing an appeal against an order of the tribunal declaring a woman as a foreigner.

The court orally observed that such matters cannot be treated as criminal cases. Justice Singh said that the government needs to assess whether the documents produced are genuine, rather than proceeding to declare people as foreigners on account of doubts in this regard.

“We are fed up with such inquiries being held...where they have produced documents, doubts with the same cannot be basis for declaring foreigner,” the judge remarked, according to Bar and Bench.

The state government, while responding to the woman’s petition, had contended that her school records mentioned her pet name, rather than the name on the electoral rolls.

The court, however, said that this could not be the basis for declaring her a foreigner, when other documents showed that she was related to other Indian citizens.

In September, a separate bench of the High Court had noted that citizenship was an important right of a person, and set aside an ex-parte order passed by a foreigners tribunal. An ex-parte order is one that is passed without hearing all sides involved in the case.

The petitioner’s lawyer had contended that his client was underprivileged and could not collect documents relevant to the case or communicate with his counsel.

A bench headed by Justice Manish Choudhary had then said that matters regarding citizenship should ordinarily be decided on the merits of the case rather than by way of default.