What’s in a name? It can cost one his citizenship

An Assam man was declared a foreigner by the Foreigners’ Tribunal two years ago and sent to a detention centre as the name of his grandfather mismatched in some documents.

Published: 20th February 2019 06:53 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th February 2019 07:05 PM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

GUWAHATI: What’s in a name? So much, it can cost one his citizenship.

An Assam man was declared a foreigner by the Foreigners’ Tribunal two years ago and sent to a detention centre as the name of his grandfather mismatched in some documents. The error – a small ‘m’ replacing a small ‘f’ in the middle of the name – made the tribunal to conclude he is not an Indian. 

After the victim, Sirajul Hoque of Dhubri, filed a writ petition in the Gauhati High Court, it declined interference following the observation that he had not mentioned about material facts in his application.

At a loss, he then moved the Supreme Court for relief and it came to his rescue. The SC set aside the judgment of Gauhati HC as well as the Foreigners’ Tribunal.

The name of Hoque’s grandfather is “Kefatullah” but it was wrongly written as “Kematullah” in some documents. Also, the fact that his father and grandfather lived in two different villages led to the suspicion that Hoque is not an Indian. 

In its judgement, the SC bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran quashed the order of the Foreigners’ Tribunal. The bench said it found that the appellant relied on a number of documents including a voters’ list of his grandfather in Sotobashjani village. There is no doubt that the great grandfather’s name Amtullah appears as Amtullah throughout the document, it said.

“There is also no doubt about the father’s name which appears as Hakim Ali throughout. The only discrepancy is that in some documents, Kefatullah becomes Kematullah. However, what is important to note is that his father’s name Amtullah continues as Amtullah and the other family members associated continued as such,” the bench said.

The other documents submitted by the petitioner included NRC registration details of 1971 of his grandfather who is mentioned as Kefatullah, a 1981 Permanent Account Number issued by Income Tax department, photo identity cards issued by the Election Commission etc.

“Having gone through these documents, we are of the view that it is not possible to state that Kematullah is not the same despite being named Kefatullah in some of the documents. This being so, the grandfather’s identity, father’s identity etc. has been established successfully by the appellant. The mere fact that the father may later have gone to another village is no reason to doubt this document. We, therefore, set aside the judgment of the High Court as well as the Foreigners’ Tribunal and allow the appeal. As a result thereof, the appellant is liable to be set free at once,” the SC bench ruled.

Hoque’s legal counsel Pijushkanti Roy described the SC judgement as “historic”. He informed that following the judgement, Hoque was released from the detention centre.

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