Gauhati High Court
Gauhati High Court
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Burden of proving citizenship absolutely rests on person claiming to be citizen in Foreigners' Tribunal proceedings: Gauhati HC

In two orders passed recently, the High Court also added that, "Oral testimony alone is no proof of citizenship."

Bar & Bench

The Gauhati High Court recently observed that the burden to prove citizenship is entirely on the person claiming to be a citizen as far as proceedings before Foreigners' Tribunals are concerned.

In at least two orders passed recently, the Bench of Justices Manojit Bhuyan and Parthivjyoti Saikia observed that,

As the primary issue in a proceeding under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 relates to determination as to whether the proceedee is a foreigner or not, the relevant facts being especially within the knowledge of the proceedee, therefore, the burden of proving citizenship absolutely rests upon the proceedee, notwithstanding anything contained in the Evidence Act, 1872. This is mandated under section 9 of the aforesaid Act, 1946.
Gauhati High Court

In the February 18 order passed in the matter of Nur Begum vs Union of India and ors, the High Court upheld a ruling passed against the writ petitioner, after finding that the documents presented were not sufficient to prove her projected linkage to persons residing in Assam before the prescribed cut off date in 1971.

The documents rejected include her school certificates, caste certificate, voter's lists referring to her projected grandparents and the electoral ID of her projected mother. The High Court observed,

"... we would observe that reflection of a name in a document is wholly insufficient and without relevance if the proceedee/writ petitioner is unable to connect herself to such entity by means of cogent, reliable and admissible document/evidence. Moreover, the petitioner did not produce a single voter list in her name by showing relationship with the projected parents."

Gauhati High Court

A day earlier, the High Court also ruled against another writ petitioner in Sahera Khatun vs Union of India and ors, on similar reasoning. The Court found that the petitioner had not adequately proved parental linkage to Assam prior to the cut-off date, rejecting documents presented, including the voter's lists of her projected grandparents, uncle, parents and brothers.

Oral Testimony alone not proof of Citizenship

Further, in both cases, the Court also observed that oral testimony in favour of the petitioners' claim to citizenship, without accompanying documentary support, was not sufficient to prove citizenship. The Court held,

... in a proceeding under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 the evidentiary value of oral testimony, without support of documentary evidence, is wholly insignificant. Oral testimony alone is no proof of citizenship.
Gauhati High Court

Applying this principle, the Court also declined to rely on oral testimony given by projected family members in favour of the two petitioners' claims. Both writ petitions were, therefore, dismissed by the High Court.

[Read the order passed in Nur Begum vs Union of India and ors]

Nur Begum vs Union of India and ors.pdf
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[Read the order passed in Sahera Khatun vs Union of India and ors]

Sahera Khatun vs Union of India and ors.pdf
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