Assam woman who was declared foreigner gets citizenship after HC intervention

Shefali Rani Das, an Assam resident who was declared an illegal migrant in 2017, has become Indian citizen again after intervention of the Gauhati high court.

She was declared as foreigner in an ex-parte judgement by member (judge) of Silchar’s Foreigners Tribunal because her lawyer didn’t appear before the court on the days of hearing. The 2017 opinion was challenged in the Gauhati high court last year and Shefali got another chance to prove her identity. She has now proven her claim before the tribunal court and become Indian citizen again.

Daughter of Lakhi Das, Shefali Rani Das is a resident of Mohankhal village under Sonai constituency of Cachar district. A case was filed against her in 2015 questioning her citizenship. Foreigners Tribunal court sent Shefali a notice and asked her to appear with necessary documents to prove her Indian identity.

Shefali appeared before the court accordingly and appointed a lawyer in her support. Tribunal Court gave her dates to appear further and she depended on the lawyer she appointed. But the lawyer didn’t appear before the court on several dates. The lawyer didn’t even communicate with her resulting in Shefali becoming a declared foreigner on 19 September 2017.

Advocate B.P. Sinha challenged tribunal court’s 2017 opinion on behalf of Shefali Das in the Gauhati high court last year. The HC agreed that the claims made by Shefali Das are true and on July 20, last year asked the Silchar’s FT-6 to hear the case again.

Member (judge) of Silchar’s FT-6 Dharmananda Deb accordingly heard the case again and declared Shefali an Indian on January 17 this year.

Deb’s judgement/opinion copy read as, “on the basis of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983 (which was struck down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Sarbananda Sonowal -Versus- Union of India 2005) the case of Shefali Rani Das reached to the Foreigners Tribunal No.1, Silchar, Cachar for opinion as to whether the proceedee (Shefali Rani Das) is a foreigner or not under the Foreigners Act, 1946. The case was registered in Foreigners Tribunal No.1, Silchar as FT Case No. 3433/2012.

Thereafter, the case was transferred to the Foreigners Tribunal No.6, Silchar and the said case was again registered on 04.12.2015 as FT-6 Case No. 404 of 2015. Notice was duly served upon the Opposite party in accordance with the provisions of para 3(5) of the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 to appear and file written statement (representation).

Upon receiving the Notice, the O.P. appeared and filed her written statement (representation) on 16.06.2016 along with some copies of documents.

However, Sefali Rani Das failed to appear before this Tribunal to face the cross-examination on 20.02.2017, 09.03.2017, 26.05.2017, 25.07.2017 and 11.09.2017 without any steps and the reference was proceeded exparte judgement and declared her as foreigner.”

“As the Gauhati high court opined that citizenship being a very important right of a person which should not be decided one sided, we heard the case again. We found that Shefali Rani Das’s documents are authentic and genuine. After examining the case thoroughly, we are in opinion that she is an Indian citizen,” Deb wrote.

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