New Delhi: The Gauhati high court has reaffirmed that a voter photo identity card can’t be conclusive proof of a person’s citizenship. The court’s observation was in the context of assessing who is a foreigner as per the terms of the Assam Accord.
The court also held that land revenue receipts, a PAN card and bank documents cannot be used to prove citizenship.
Hearing a writ petition by Munindra Biswas, which challenged the verdict of a foreigners’ tribunal in Tinsukia district of upper Assam, the division bench of Justice Manojit Bhuyan and Justice Parthivjyoti Saikia reiterated an earlier judgement of the court. In Md. Babul Islam versus State of Assam (No. 3547), the court had ruled that “electoral photo identity card is not a proof of citizenship”.
Biswas, who was declared a foreigner by the tribunal in July 2019, submitted to the court that his grandfather Durga Charan Biswas belonged to Nadia district of West Bengal and his father Indra Mohan Biswas migrated to Tinsukia district of Assam in 1965. Biswas said he was born in Assam, is a resident of Margherita town of Tinsukia district and submitted proof of his name in the 1997 voters’ list. He also attached land documents from 1970. However, the court concluded that the petitioner failed to furnish a voters’ list prior to 1997 to prove that his parents entered Assam before January 1, 1966 and he was living in the state prior to March 24, 1971.
As per Clause 6A of the Citizenship Act, an outcome of the Assam Accord, the base year for citizenship exclusive to Assam is January 1, 1966. Those who settled in the state between January 1, 1966 and March 24, 1971 are to lose their right to vote for a period of ten years and on completion of that period would be regularised.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951, was recently updated in the state as per the exclusive cut-off date of March 24, 1971, decided in the Accord. Among the 14 documents to be chosen from by the NRC applicants to claim that they settled in Assam prior to 1971, though the electoral rolls till that date were included as valid documents, voter ID card was not in the list.
The foreigners’ tribunals rule on the cases taking into cognisance Clause 6A of the Act besides the Foreigners’ Act and the Citizenship Rules, 2009.
About the sale deed of land which the petitioner submitted to the court, the order said, “Sale deeds are private documents, therefore they must be proved in accordance with law. In the case of Narada Devi Gupta Vs Birendra Kumar Jaiswal, reported in 2013, the Supreme Court has reiterated the legal position that marking of documents as exhibits and their proof are two different legal concepts. Mere production and marking of a document as exhibits cannot be held to be due proof of its contents. Its execution has to be proved by admissible evidence, i,e, by the evidence of those persons who can vouch for the truth of the facts in issue.”