GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court on Friday granted interim bail to Kargil War veteran Mohammad Sanaullah, who was declared a 'foreigner' by the Foreigners’ Tribunal and sent to a detention centre for illegal immigrants in Goalpara last week.
The retired Army honourary captain is likely to be released on Saturday.
After hearing his counsel, noted advocate Indira Jaising and the prosecution, the court issued an order granting interim bail to the 52-year-old retired Army officer.
“We have heard the counsels for the parties and have also perused the available materials, and we are inclined to grant interim bail to the applicant Md Sanaullah @ Md Sana Ullah to the extent that the superintendent of police (border), Kamrup, shall take steps to release the applicant from his detention at Goalpara Detention Centre, subject to the applicant furnishing bail bond of Rs.20000 with two local sureties of the like amount to the satisfaction of the said authority…,” the court said in its order.
The court also ordered that Sanaullah will not move out of Kamrup (Metro) district without prior information and approval of the superintendent of police (border), Kamrup.
Aman Wadud, another counsel of Sanaullah, said the judge did not make any observation during the hearing. “The judge listened to both parties and granted bail to Sanaullah. He might make his observation during future hearings in the case when it will be heard on merit, document by document and page by page,” he said.
Senior Gauhati High Court lawyer Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury, who has been helping Sanaullah in the case and who was present during the hearing, said that Indira Jaising had told the court the retired Army officer possessed sufficient documents to establish that he is a genuine Indian citizen.
“She said he (Sanaullah) has his Class X certificate and according to Army records, he was born in 1967 and the name of his father, Mohammad Ali, figured on the voters’ list of 1966. She said nobody, including the prosecution, had disputed he is Mohammad Ali’s son. She said Sanaullah automatically becomes a citizen of India as his father’s name was on the voters’ list of 1966. Also, she said he himself is an Indian citizen by virtue of his birth in 1967. This was the argument,” Choudhury explained.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being updated in Assam based on the March 24, 1971 cut-off date. This means individuals, who migrated to India after March 24, 1971, will be viewed as illegal immigrants.
The prosecution, however, said that Sanaullah could have been born in 1967 but there was no mention of his birthplace. It argued that he might have born in Bangladesh and came to India and joined the Army in 1987.
“But, Jaising said the certificate issued by the school means he studied there. He had also given an address of residency. He has a passport and when he joined the Army, the police had issued a verification certificate stating that he is an Indian,” argued Choudhury.
He added that the Foreigners’ Tribunal had not contested that Sanaullah’s father is Mohammad Ali and that the former was born in 1967. Choudhury also alleged that the day Sanaullah was 'supposedly interrogated' by the Border Police, the retired Army officer was in Manipur.
“The notice of the Foreigners’ Tribunal was issued in the name of another Sanaullah who is a labourer. This shows that the retired Army officer was not investigated. The investigating officer (now retired) Chandramal Das is now saying he did not handle the case of this Mohammad Sanaullah,” Choudhury claimed.
Sanaullah was aware of the case pending against him in 2018 when his name did not figure in the National Register of Citizens. Following his retirement in 2017, he had joined the Border Police as a sub-inspector in December last year.
Meanwhile, an ecstatic Samina Begum, Sanaullah’s wife, was optimistic he would be cleared and let off. “The past few days were terrible for us but we are now happy that the court has granted bail to him,” she said.
Mohammad Ajmal Haque, who is a retired junior commissioned officer of the Army and Sanaullah’s cousin, said that they had full faith in the judiciary.
“We are happy that he has been granted bail by the court. He was an Indian, is an Indian and will be an Indian,” Haque said. He added that Sanaullah was a victim of a conspiracy hatched by the Border Police investigating officer and also due to the lapses by the Border Police and the Foreigners’ Tribunal.