07, May 2021 | CJP Team
Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has approached the Deputy Commissioner, Bongaigaon, Principal Secretary to the Government of Assam and Superintendent of Police (Border) with a memorandum to take cognisance of some instances where Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) notices are not being duly served upon the noticee/proceedee and are instead, pasted on electricity poles in Bongaigaon.
A detailed story with images of notices on poles may be read here.
What is a FT notice?
When a person is termed a “doubtful” or D-Voter by the Election Commission, or when the Border Police designates them “Suspected Foreigner”, they are required to defend their citizenship before a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT). Additionally, after over 19 lakh people were excluded from the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) that was published in Assam on August 31, 2019, they too need to appear before the FT to defend their citizenship. This process of defending one’s citizenship for those excluded from the NRC begins after one receives a rejection notice and that individual has only 120 days after receiving such notice, to appear before the concerned FT.
Now that the final NRC has been published, and 19,06,657 people have been excluded from the final list, CJP’s campaign has become even more focused. Our objective now, is to help these excluded people defend their citizenship before Foreigners’ Tribunals. We are also helping secure the release of detention camp inmates as per the Supreme Court order on their conditional release. For this we have already started conducting a series of workshops to train paralegals to assist people at FTs. We will also be publishing a multi-media training manual containing simplified aspects of legal procedure, evidentiary rules, and judicial precedents that will ensure the appeals filed against the NRC exclusions in the FTs are comprehensive and sound, both in fact and in law. This will assist our paralegals, lawyers and the wider community in Assam to negotiate this tortuous process. For this we need your continued support. Please donate now to help us help Assam.
The process to defend one’s citizenship can only begin after the individual receives a notice legally, for appearance before the FT. CJP’s team in Assam visited different parts of Bongaigaon city, including Babupara, Boubajar, Ghoshpara, North Bongaigaon etc. We found these notices were found pasted on electric poles, with most issued in the name of women. For example: Mira Rani Das, Parbati Singha, Sankari Ghosh, Prativa Dey etc. In some places, the writings on the notices were washed away due to the rain and had become unreadable.
Violation of law
The Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964 has laid down certain procedures to be followed when serving a notice to people. Sub clause 5 of Clause 3 of the Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964, states that the notice shall be served at the address where the proceedee last resided or reportedly resides or works for gain. In case of change of place of residence, which has been duly intimated in writing to the investigating agency by the alleged person, it shall be served at such changed address by the FT.
The FT order also states that if a person is not found at the address at the time of service of notice, the notice may be served on any adult member of the family of the person. The law further lays down that if the proceedee has changed the place of residence or place of work, without intimation to the investigating agency, the process server shall affix a copy of the notice on the ‘outer door or some other conspicuous part of the house in which the proceedee ordinarily resides or last resided or reportedly resided or personally worked for gain or carries on business’.
In cases where the person who needs to be served notice is out of town, the notice shall be sent for service to the officer-in-charge of the police station within whose jurisdiction the proceedee resides or last resided or is last known to have resided or worked for gain.
With these clearly established rules, CJP has brought to the attention of the authorities that pasting such notices out in the open, in public places is absolutely illegal. Its memorandum reads, “There is no provision for pasting of the notice anywhere. Such a course is not permitted in any nature of judicial proceedings. Assuming that the authorities discovered that the proceedee was not present at the address where they attempted to serve notice, they should have as per procedure, stuck the notice on the outer door or some other conspicuous part of the house in which the proceedee ordinarily resides or last resided or reportedly resided or personally worked for gain or carries on business. But the notices were neither stuck on the outer door or any conspicuous part of the house, but on electricity poles that are public property and stand alongside roadways.”
CJP has highlighted this issue of illegal methods of serving notice and the repercussions of it. As reiterated before, the process to defend one’s citizenship gets triggered only after the notice is ‘duly’ served and the 120 days period stipulated for appearing before the FT kick starts with this very notice. Thus, it is imperative that these notices are given ‘dasti’ or in hand to the person in whose name the notice has been issued or at least an adult member of his family.
There may be areas where locals in Assam may have found such notices in public places or they may not even come to anyone’s attention and are showed as notices being served while causing the proceedee to lose an opportunity to present his case before the FT and having to probably to employ more financial resources to contend his claim before the High Court.
Many of these people belong to low-income groups and do not have the kind of resources needed to hire legal help and lawyers. “To put them in such a precarious situation violates their right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as their right to equality under Article 14”, states CJP’s memorandum.
Highlighting such arbitrary practices, CJP has urged the authorities to take necessary action against the serving body and set up an enquiry into this matter to find out how many such notices were served without following due procedure under the Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964.
In addition to this, it has also urged that a “public declaration made that any notice served under the Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964 without following due procedure laid down therein, shall not be considered valid and will not trigger the 120-day period for the proceedee to appear before the FT to prove his/her citizenship or for that matter any proceedings under the Foreigners Act, 1946.”
The entire memorandum may be read here: