The Supreme Court has set aside the ex-parte order of the Foreigners’ Tribunal, Assam which had declared a woman as a foreigner who entered India after March 25, 1971.

The Court also said that the proceedings of the matter shall stand restored to the Tribunal.

The two-Judge Bench of CJI D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Dipankar Datta said, “… we are of the view that it would be in the interests of justice to remand the proceedings back to the Tribunal so that the material which has been relied upon by the appellant in support of her plea of citizenship can be duly evaluated in accordance with law. … The order passed by the Tribunal on 10 July 2008 is set aside and the proceedings in GFT(R) Case No 185/2007 (Police Case No 2075/03) shall stand restored to the Tribunal.”

The Bench observed that the appellant furnished cogent material in support of her absence during the proceedings before the Tribunal and that serious consequences will follow if the finding that the appellant entered into India after March 25, 1971, is sustained without considering the defence on merits.

Advocate Prateek Dhankhar appeared on behalf of the appellant while Advocate Shuvodeep Roy appeared for the State of Assam.

In this case, the Foreigners’ Tribunal, Assam issued a notice to the appellant alleging that she had entered Assam from East Pakistan after January 1, 1966, and before February 25, 1971, and directed her to appear on February 7, 2008. The appellant did not appear before the Tribunal and proceeded against the ex-parte.

The Tribunal while relying upon the report of the Enquiry Officer held the appellant to be a foreigner who had entered India after March 25, 1971. She moved the High Court by filing a petition but the same got dismissed.

The Apex Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case directed, “In order to facilitate a fresh determination by the Tribunal, the impugned orders of the Single Judge of the High Court dated 3 November 2015 and of the Division Bench dated 7 August 2017 shall stand set aside, without expressing any final opinion on the merits of the claim of the appellant.”

The Court further said that it would be open to the appellant to file a reply before the Tribunal on or before March 31, 2023 placing all relevant documentary material on the record of the Tribunal.

“The Tribunal shall thereafter proceed in accordance with law after furnishing the appellant an opportunity of being heard”, asserted the Court.

Accordingly, the Court disposed of the appeal.

Cause Title- Rashida Begum @ Rashida Khatun v. Union of India & Ors

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