The Gauhati High Court has set aside an order by a foreigners' tribunal in Assam and freed a man from detention centre and has asked the tribunal for a fresh hearing of his citizenship claims. The court observed that he should get one last chance since he was declared a foreigner in an ex parte order as he never appeared for trial.
Joydev Ghosh, 50, was set free on bail on Thursday from a detention camp at Silchar jail in southern Assam's Cachar district after being in detention for a year. He said he could not attend the tribunal hearing since he was running pillar to post to save the life of his only son who died of cancer at 17.
"During that time my son was battling with blood cancer. As a father, I had to try my last bit to save him, but I could not. In the process I could not attend tribunal hearings. I am a poor person. I used to work in a private shop. The little earning I had, I spent on my ailing son, so hiring a lawyer and attending trials was not easy for me. I voted in the last Lok Sabha polls and saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi win for a second time. Within days the police picked me up. Only in the police station I got to know that I have been declared a foreigner without hearing me," Mr Ghosh told reporters at Silchar.
Mr Ghosh, a resident of Badarpur in Karimganj district of Assam, bordering Bangladesh, was declared a foreigner in August 2018 after he was suspected to be a foreigner in 2016 by the Assam border police and a reference case was sent to the foreigners' tribunal at Karimganj.
The tribunal record shows that Mr Ghosh appeared on the first date of hearing on August 24, 2017. On subsequent dates his lawyer kept on seeking fresh dates from the tribunal to record a written statement. Later, the tribunal declared his as a foreigner in an ex parte order.
Mr Ghosh was arrested in May 2019 and sent to the detention camp.
In his petition to the Gauhati High Court, Mr Ghosh said the tribunal records show the notice was served and it was received by someone named Nirmali Ghosh, while his wife's name is Nirmala Ghosh.
He said the notice was never served and the signature on the receipt does not match with her signature, the High Court's order added.
While setting aside the tribunal's order, the High Court said Mr Ghosh should get at least one more opportunity to prove his citizenship.
Four other family members of Mr Ghosh have been earlier suspected as foreigners and had faced trials and were declared Indian by the same tribunal, including his 89-year-old mother. But Mr Ghosh's ordeal is not over yet. He has to arrange money and documents to face the tribunal and try to prove that he is Indian.