A foreigners’ tribunal in Assam has sent a notice to a person, who died in 2016, to prove whether he is a citizen of India. On March 15, the tribunal asked the deceased Shyama Charan Das to appear before a court by March 30.

Notably, the same court had closed a case regarding citizenship of Das after his family had produced his death certificate on September 23, 2016. As per the death certificate issued by the Assam government, Das had died on May 6, 2016, at the age of 74.

However, earlier this year, a fresh case was filed against Das by the Border Police on suspicion of him being an undocumented immigrant, following which the notice by the court was issued.

The notice issued by the foreigners’ tribunal. (Credit: Special arrangement)

According to the tribunal’s notice, the police alleged that Das had entered Assam some time between January 1, 1966 and March 23, 1973 without any valid documents, and had started residing in Silchar.

“Whereas the reference reveals that you could not produce any valid document before the police during enquiry/verification regarding your Indian Citizenship within the stipulated period of time,” the notice stated. “And whereas on the grounds made on the reference, you are suspected to be an illegal migrant.”

Superintendent of Police (Border) Ramandeep Kaur said they will investigate the matter.

“There must be a complaint registered against the person, based on which the notice was issued,” Kaur said, according to Hindustan Times. “If the person is found dead, I think [the] case will be dismissed.”

Das’ daughter, Baby Das, said that despite her father having adequate documents to prove his citizenship, her family had struggled for years in court.

“I thought we lost our father half a decade ago but the court says he’s alive,” she said, according to Hindustan Times. “Now, after his death, we have to appear before the court on his behalf. I don’t know how to react.”

Social worker Kamal Chakroborty said the incident reflects poorly on the system, Hindustan Times reported.

“A dead man has been asked to appear before the court based on police’s field verification. It means, police didn’t even visit the accused person’s house to verify the documents,” she alleged. “This is a wake-up call. As per my source, thousands of NRC left-outs are getting notices from Foreigners Tribunals across Assam.”

NRC and foreigners’ tribunals

Assam had published a National Register of Citizens in August 2019. The stated aim of the register was to separate genuine Indian citizens from undocumented immigrants living in the state.

According to the terms of the National Register of Citizens, anyone who cannot prove that they or their ancestors entered Assam before midnight on March 24, 1971, cannot be considered a citizen.

Over 19 lakh people were excluded from the final citizens’ list. Foreigners’ Tribunals were tasked with hearing their appeals against exclusion. Should their claims to citizenship be rejected, they face detention.

On February 9, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai said that the foreigners tribunals in Assam have declared 1,43,466 people as “foreigners” till December 31. He said that 329 of the persons declared as “foreigners” were deported to their countries till February 1.