The Gauhati High Court has held that if a person has been declared an Indian citizen by a Foreigners Tribunal (FT) in Assam, they cannot be tried for a second time in the tribunal and declared a foreigner.

A Division Bench of Justice N Kotiswara Singh and Justice Malashri Nandy in a recent Judgment, passed on a set of 12 petitions, stated that the principle of 'res judicata' (meaning that once the matter has been decided it cannot be reopened by the same parties), was applicable to the Foreigners Tribunals in the state.

The High Court observed that the common theme which runs through the batch of writ petitions filed before them is the applicability of the principle of 'res judicata'.

The petitioners contention are based on the Supreme Court's decision in the case of one Abdul Kuddus that subsequent proceedings before the Foreigners Tribunals are barred by the principle of 'res judicata'.

The Court directed that whenever a petitioner takes the plea of applicability of 'res judicata' on the ground that he had already been declared not an Indian by the FT in an earlier proceeding, the tribunal has to first determine whether the petitioner is the same person who was proceeded in the earlier case or not.

''For that purpose, there can be examination of evidence in the form of oral documents and evidence and if the tribunal comes to the conclusion that the person was the same as in the earlier proceeding, there is no need to go into the merit of the case any further'', the Court held.

On the plea of applicability of 'res judicata', the subsequent proceeding shall be closed, without any further examination, on the basis of the earlier opinion that the person was not a foreigner, the order stated.

The order is a reiteration of a similar judgement passed by the Gauhati High Court in December 2021 where it was observed that the Supreme Court's decision on the principle of 'res judicata' applicable even in a proceeding before the Foreigners Tribunal also makes the FT's opinion not sustainable as that issue had already been settled.

A Division Bench had ordered the release of Hasina Bhanu alias Hasna Bhanu from Tezpur Jail, as she was declared 'Indian' in 2016 and again a 'foreigner' in 2021 by the same FT, and, therefore, the proceedings against her cannot be sustained as it was the same person in both the cases.

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With PTI inputs