- The court rejected petition of a woman placed under "foreigner" category
- Land and bank records were, however, accepted during NRC in Assam
- At least 19 lakh people are trying to prove their citizenship
Documents like land revenue receipts, bank statements and Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards cannot be used to show proof of citizenship, the Gauhati High Court has said while rejecting a woman's plea against a tribunal that placed her under the "foreigner" category.
Land and bank records were, however, in the list of documents accepted by the authorities who ran the National Register of Citizens' (NRC) exercise in Assam to identify illegal immigrants.
At least 19 lakh people are trying to prove their citizenship after they were left out of the NRC final list that was published in August last year. Hundreds of foreigners' tribunals have been set up across the north-east state, bordering Bangladesh, to review cases of those who say they have been erroneously left out. The cases rejected by the tribunal can be taken up in the high court and eventually, if needed, in the Supreme Court. No one will be put in detention centres until all legal options are exhausted, the government has said.
In the latest order, Justices Manojit Bhuyan and Parthivjyoti Saikia of the Gauhati High Court referred to a judgment by the same court in 2016 that ruled PAN card and bank documents cannot be used as proof of citizenship. The court said land revenue-paying receipts do not prove the citizenship of a person.
Jabeda Begum alias Jabeda Khatun had filed a petition in the high court challenging the order of the foreigners' tribunal that had declared her a foreigner.
A certificate issued by the village chief declaring her father's identity and her husband's identity were among the 14 documents she had given to the foreigners' tribunal. She has, however, failed to give any document that links her to her parents, the tribunal and the high court have said.
"This court... has already held that PAN card and bank documents are not proof of citizenship. Land revenue-paying receipts do not prove citizenship of a person. Therefore, we find that the tribunal has correctly appreciated the evidences placed before it..." the high court said.
The same bench of the high court in another case has observed that voter identity cards are not proof of citizenship.
The centre has said people whose names are not part of the NRC will not be declared foreigners till all legal options are exhausted.
The NRC has immense significance for the people of Assam as the state witnessed a six-year-long movement between 1979 to 1985 seeking detection and deportation of illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The NRC is being monitored by the Supreme Court.