Gauhati HC fines election officer for questioning citizenship of retired Gurkha soldier
The court also set aside a ruling by the foreigners’ tribunal that declared 85-year-old Jagat Bahadur Chetri as an illegal immigrant in 2012.
The Gauhati High Court has imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on an electoral registration officer for referring a retired Gurkha soldier to the Foreigners’ Tribunal questioning his citizenship, reported the East Mojo on Thursday.
In an order passed on February 20, the High Court reprimanded the election officer of the Dispur Legislative Assembly constituency and also set aside a 2012 ruling by the foreigners’ tribunal that had declared 85-year-old Jagat Bahadur Chetri as an illegal immigrant.
Chetri had served at the 14 Field Ammunition Depot of Indian Army at Satgaon under Narengi army cantonment in Guwahati for 38 years and retired in 2005. He was marked a “D-voter”, or doubtful voter, in the electoral rolls published in 1997.
The election officer categorised him as a “D-Voter” despite an on-spot verification by another government officer who had confirmed that Chetri was born in 1937 at Dibrugarh in Assam, reported the Hindustan Times.
“We are of the view that it was an absolute non-application of mind on the part of the ERO [electoral registration officer] of 52 Dispur Legislative Assembly constituency to have referred the petitioner to the Foreigners Tribunal for an opinion,” the High Court noted in its order.
According to Assam Accords 1985, persons who entered the state after March 25, 1971, can be classified as illegal immigrants unless they have documents to prove otherwise.
“Being tried at the Foreigners Tribunal means an insult to my Gorkha ethnicity,” Chetri said, reported East Mojo. “I was born as an Indian and happy that I will die as an Indian.”
The Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh which handles the cases of Gurkhas left out of Assam’s updated National Register of Citizens and those marked D-voters said that there are several similar cases pending.
“The fine of Rs10,000 for causing psychological harm to a bonafide citizen should not only act as a deterrent for all officers of the Election Commission of India in the case of Gurkhas but also educate police officers of Border branch not to be casual in questioning the citizenship of the members of the community,” the organisation’s Assam unit president Prakash Dahal said, reported The Hindu.