Supreme Court halts deportation of woman declared foreigner, issues notice to union and NRC coordinator Supreme Court seeks Assam Govt. and ECI response within 3 Months, says no coercive steps against petitioner till then

24, May 2024 | CJP Team

The Supreme Court sought response from the Union of India over the petition filed by Maya Rani Barman against the decision of the Gauhati High Court affirming the impugned order dated 22.11.2019 of the Foreign Tribunal, declaring the petitioner to be a foreigner who had entered into the territory of India (Assam) illegally from the specified territory of Bangladesh after 25.03.1971.

Brief Background of the Case:

On November 22, 2019, Maya Rani Barman “the petitioner” was declared a foreigner under the Foreigner Act, 1946 by the Foreigners Tribunal, Lakhimpur (Assam).

The petitioner claimed that she is an Indian citizen by birth and born and brought up in the of village Gopalpur, District-Cooch Behar, West Bengal and studied up to Class-V at Gopalpur High School and as per her School Certificate, her date of birth is 15th of April 1961. She got married to one Bishnu Barman, son of late Shiben Chandra Barman of Harmoti Gaon, District-Lakhimpur.

However, a case was registered against the petitioner bearing Case No. 4057/2011 (District No. 23/1997) by the Foreigners Tribunal No. 1st, Lakhimpur, North Lakhimpur upon a reference was made by the Superintendent of Police (Border), Lakhimpur (Assam).

The Petitioner appeared before the Tribunal and contested the case by filling her written Statement, adduced her evidence in chief along with relevant and supported documents to prove her nationality. But, the Tribunal did not consider the documents that she relied on.

On November 22, 2019, the Foreigners Tribunal at Lakhimpur passed the impugned final order/opinion order. The petitioner claimed that the tribunal passed the impugned order arbitrarily without appreciating the evidence, declared her to be a foreigner who had illegally entered into the territory of India (Assam) from the specified territory of Bangladesh after 25.03.1971.

Petitioner moved the High Court for relief:

On January 1, 2023, Maya Rani (the petitioner) aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned decision of the Foreigners Tribunal dated 22.11.2019 passed by the Member, Foreigners Tribunal No. 1st, Lakhimpur (Assam) filed a petition bearing Writ Petition  (Civil) No. 154/2023 before the Gauhati High Court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.

The petitioner’s counsel submitted that the petitioner has exhibited the Voter Identity Card issued in her name along with the School Transfer to prove her linkage with her father. Further added that, though the petitioner annexed a photo copy of a Ration Card and an affidavit sworn by her mother etc. but inadvertently those certificates were not exhibited by her. It is submitted by Mr. Biswas that the petitioner produced the School Transfer Certificate to prove her linkage with her father Lt. Monteswar Ray, stating further that father of the proceedee had purchased a parcel of land in the year 1960, but, due to flood the Sale Deed of the said land got damaged and therefore, the petitioner could not produce the original copy of said Sale Deed before the Tribunal.

The counsel for petitioner further submits that the documents so provided by the petitioner was sufficient to prove herself to be the Citizen of India. however, the Tribunal without considering the documents which were relied by the petitioner/proceedee, passed the impugned Final Order dated 22.11.2019 arbitrarily and declared her as a foreigner of post 1971 stream, which is liable to be set aside and quashed.

On the other side, Standing Counsel for Home department Assam was submitted that the petitioner could not produce any document to establish herself to be the daughter of her projected father, one Lt. Monteswar Ray who is claimed to be the Citizen of India by the petitioner. The counsel added that o submitted that though the petitioner has submitted one School Transfer Certificate but she failed to prove the said certificate as well as its contents by producing any reliable evidence of the issuing authority. In that context, counsel relied on a decision of the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Life Insurance Corporation of India and Another Vs. Ram Pal Singh Bisen, reported in (2010) 4 SCC 491, wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down that “admission of a document in a Court may amount to admission of its contents but not its truth”.

Added that, Voter Identity Card along with other documents as produced by the petitioner in her Written Statement are not at all sufficient to prove herself to be the Citizen of India as claimed by her as she completely failed to prove any link with her projected father whom stated to be an Indian Citizen.

The Home Department, Assam submitted that the petitioner/proceedee failed to adduce reliable evidence exhibit requisite documents so as to prove her linkage with her projected father and grandparents and thereby the petitioner failed to discharge her burden under Section 9 of the Foreigners’ Act, 1946.

No relief granted to the Petitioner, High Court affirmed the decision of Tribunal:

On January 1, 2024, the division bench of Justice Manash Ranjan Pathak and Justice Mitali Thakuria observed that the petitioner claimed that her father Lt. Monteswar Ray was also an Indian Citizen, who purchased a land in India in the year 1960, but she could not produce the Sale Deed before the Tribunal as it was destroyed due to burning of the Record Room in the year 1974 and also failed to produce any documents like continuous/regular payment of land revenue for the said land before the Tribunal by exhibiting Land Revenue Paying Receipt on behalf of her projected father.

The bench further observed that before Tribunal the petitioner exhibited a Transfer Certificate issued in her name by Gopalpur High School, Gopalpur, Cooch Behar, West Bengal issued on 08.08.2015, but she could not adduce any evidence of the Headmaster of the said High School, i.e., its issuing authority or any authorised teacher and/or employee of the said High School to prove the contents of the said certificate exhibited by the petitioner, so as to prove herself to be the daughter of her projected father Lt. Monteswar Ray.

The Court added further that the petitioner did not produce any voter lists of the years 1965 or 1966 and 1971 to prove that her parents had cast vote in the years 1966 and/or 1971. We found that the petitioner not only failed to prove her linkage with her projected father Lt. Monteswar Ray but also failed to produce any documents to prove that her projected father was an Indian Citizen.

On the forgoing findings the division bench held that the Tribunal after due appreciation of the entire facts of the case and evidence adduced on behalf of the petitioner arrived at the impugned opinion/judgment dated 22.11.2019 which is without any illegality and perversity. We, therefore, are of the view that the impugned final order passed by the Foreigners’ Tribunal North Lakhimpur, Assam in Lakhimpur, holding the petitioner to be a foreigner under the Foreigners’ Act, 1946 who had illegally entered into the territory of India (Assam) from the specified territory of Bangladesh on or after 25.03.1971 does not call for any interference.

The judgement of High Court dated 11.01.2024 can be read here:

Maya Rani Barman vs Union of India ors WP(C) 1542023 Gauhati HC 11.1.24


Petitioner moved Supreme Court against the impugned order of HC:

On April 19, 2024, aggrieved by the decision of the Gauhati High Court declaring the petitioner to be a foreigner, the petitioner filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.

The appeal said that it was ‘practically impossible’ for the woman to get the documents as she had shifted to Assam on account of her marriage, while originally belonging to Cooch Behar in West Bengal. “In course of her migration, it was not possible to keep track of those documents since her parents have already died,” the plea said.

Petitioner said that the documents establishing her link to her parents, both Indian citizens, have been destroyed in floods. Further, the High Court wrongly discarded her school-leaving certificate as proof of Indian residency and citizenship on grounds of the headmaster not having been cross-examined.

“It is not possible for her to bring the Headmaster from West Bengal to Lakhimpur, Assam,” she said.

On May 17, 2024, the three judges’ bench of SC consisting Chief Justice of India, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra have issued notice and sought response from the Union of India, Assam Government, Election Commission of India and NRC Coordinator Assam over the matter within three months.

”In the meantime, no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner on the basis of the impugned judgement and order dated 11 January 2024 of the Gauhati High Court in WP(C) No. 154 of 2023” the bench directed to the respondents.

The order of the Supreme Court dated 17.05.2024 can be read here:

Maya Rani Barman vs Union of India ors SLP(C) 179542024 SC 17.5.24




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