A foreigners’ tribunal in Assam’s Silchar recently declared a woman as a “citizen of India” after the Gauhati High Court intervened into the matter. Shefali Rani Das had been declared a foreigner in September 2017 by the tribunal.
Das, a 23-year-old woman from Mohankhal village of Cachar district in Assam, had moved the High Court after she was declared a foreigner, reported Hindustan Times. In July, the court had set aside the tribunal’s ex-parte order and gave her another opportunity to prove her Indian citizenship. An ex-parte order is one that is passed without hearing all the sides involved in the case.
The tribunal heard the case again and passed a revised order on January 17.
“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,” wrote Dharmananda Deb, a member (judge) of the tribunal, in the order.
In Assam, March 25, 1971 is the cut-off date to prove citizenship.
In July, Das had told the High Court that she did not miss her hearing dates at the tribunal because of any “wilful negligence”, according to The Indian Express. In its ex-parte order, the foreigners’ tribunal had noted that Das had failed to appear before it on five occasions between February and September 2017.
Her lawyer Mahitosh Das said that her previous counsel had not informed her about the proceedings.
“We assume there was some sort of communication gap between them,” he told The Indian Express. “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.”
The High Court bench of Justices N Kotiswar Singh and Soumitra Saikia had allowed Das one more opportunity to prove her case. They had said 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”.