The Gauhati High Court has set aside a two-year-old judgement of a Foreigners’ Tribunal in Assam declaring a man a “foreigner”, reported The Hindu on Sunday. The tribunal gave the ruling even though the man, Haider Ali, was able to prove his linkage with two of his relatives named in the voters’ lists of 1965 and 1970, according to Live Law.

According to the Assam Accord of 1985, people who resided or have been residing in India before March 24, 1971 – the cut-off date for identifying “foreigners” – have to establish their lineage to enroll in the National Register of Citizens.

More than 19 lakh people were left out of the final list of the Assam NRC, a list of bonafide Indian citizens in the state, that was published on August 31, 2019. They comprise around 6% of Assam’s entire population.

The foreigners tribunal of western Assam’s Barpeta district had on January 30, 2019, declared Ali a foreigner for failing to establish linkage with five people in his family. However, he was able to prove his linkage with his grandfather Nadu Miya and grandmother Aymona, whose names appeared in the 1970 electoral list, according to The Hindu.

On March 15, Justice N Kotiswar Singh noted that the petitioner’s claim would have been stronger if he had disclosed the family tree in detail. “...but failure to disclose the names of all the members of the family cannot weaken his case and render his evidence unreliable, nor reduce the credibility of his evidence, when there are other corroborating evidences”, the ruling on March 30 said, reported The Hindu.

The High Court said that Ali, a resident of Kawaimari Block 12 village, had documents to prove that he was the son of Harmuz Ali and the grandchild of Nadu Miya, whose names appeared in the voters list.

“The fact that Harmuz Ali was the son of Nadu Miya has been already duly proved by the aforesaid voters’ lists of 1970 and 1965, genuineness of which was not questioned by the state,” the court order said, according to NDTV. “Thus, non explanation of relationship of the petitioner with other persons mentioned in the voters’ list of 1970 cannot be a ground for disbelieving the correctness of the entry of the names of the grandparents in the voters list, when the correctness of the entry of the names of the petitioner’s father and grandfather was not questioned.”

The High Court order said that the “fact in issue” was whether Ali had other relatives.

The Union government defends the National Register of Citizens as a mechanism that is necessary to identify undocumented migrants, particularly Bangladeshis. But critics fear that the Citizenship Amendment Act when used in conjunction with the NRC will allow the government to exclude Muslims, turning them into non-citizens. The government and its supporters have sought to insist that the CAA and the NRC are not linked.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019, offers citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. The act had sparked huge protests across the country.