This research note is part of Parichay’s ongoing project to study, track, and publish key propositions and latest developments in citizenship law and adjudication in India. It has been edited for clarity by Sreedevi Nair.
Ex parte orders are delivered without the presence of the accused in the Court/Tribunal. Ex parte orders are extremely significant in the context of Foreigners’ Tribunal (‘FT’) proceedings in Assam. It has been reported that since 1985, nearly 64,000 people in Assam have been declared as ‘foreigners’ through ex parte orders. They often become aware of the ex parte orders against them only when they are apprehended by the border police to be sent to detention centres. However, the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, provides for a mechanism to set aside an ex parte order. Additionally, Tribunals can also accept applications to set aside ex parte orders in case they are of the opinion that certain special/exceptional circumstances led to the applicant being unaware of the proceedings. This research note studies the mechanism for setting aside an ex parte order and mentions the relevant cases where ex parte orders were set aside due to special/exceptional circumstances.
I. Relevant Statutes/Rules/Orders
Paragraph 3C of the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 provides for filing of an application before the FT for setting aside an ex parte order within a period of 30 days from the date of the said FT Opinion. Rule 3C of the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, is as follows:
“3C. Procedure for setting aside ex parte order.–
(1) Where the Foreigners Tribunal has passed an ex-parte order for non-appearance of the proceedee and he or she has sufficient cause for not appearing before the Foreigners Tribunal, it may on the application of the proceedee, if filed within thirty days of the said order, set aside its ex parte order and decide the case accordingly.
(2) The proceedee may file an application to the Foreigners Tribunal within thirty days to review the decision of the Foreigners Tribunal claiming that he is not a foreigner and the Foreigners Tribunals may review its decision within thirty days of the receipt of such application and decide the case on merits.
(3) Subject to the provisions of this Order, the Foreigners Tribunal shall have the powers to regulate its own procedure for disposal of the cases expeditiously in a time bound manner.”
II. Special/Exceptional Circumstances
The Tribunal can entertain an application for setting aside an ex parte opinion if it is satisfied as to the existence of special/exceptional circumstances for the non-appearance of a person. State of Assam v. Moslem Mandal [(2013)3 GLR 402 at para 91 [Full Bench]] dealt with such special/exceptional circumstances:
“The Tribunals constituted under the Foreigners Act read with the 1964 Order have to regulate their own procedure and they have also the quasi-judicial function to discharge and hence in a given case the Tribunal has jurisdiction to entertain and pass necessary orders on an application to set aside an ex-parte opinion, provided it is proved to the satisfaction of the Tribunal that the proceedee was not served with the notice in the reference proceeding or that he was prevented by sufficient cause from appearing in the proceeding, reason for which was beyond his control. Such application, however, should not be entertained in a routine manner. The Tribunal can entertain such application provided the proceedee could demonstrate the existence of the special/exception circumstances to entertain the same by way of pleadings in the application filed for setting aside the ex-parte opinion, otherwise the very purpose of enacting the 1946 Act and the 1964 Order would be frustrated. The Tribunal, therefore, would have the jurisdiction to reject such application at the threshold, if no ground is made out.”
III. Cases Dealing With Special/Exceptional Circumstances
|S No||Case Name||Citation||Outcome||Reasoning|
|1.||Taher Ali v. Union of India||WP(C) 5608/2019||Allowed||Missing a single hearing cannot be grounds for an ex parte order.|
|2.||Habibur Rahman v. Union of India||WP(C) 8564/2019||Allowed||Wife’s death constitutes exceptional circumstance to set aside an ex parte order.|
|3.||Samsul Hoque v. Union of India||AIR 2018 Gau 157 MANU/GH/ 0778/2018||Allowed||Riots in Mizoram (which was the appellant’s place of work) prevented him from attending court proceedings.|
|4.||Huran Nessa v. Union of India||MANU/GH/0 792/2018||Allowed||The proceedee was not aware that she was required to register herself with the FRRO within the stipulated time, as her husband/father had passed away before conveying this important information to her. This constituted an exceptional circumstance.|
|5.||Bahej Ali v. Union of India||2018(2) GLT 837 MANU/GH/ 1032/2017||Allowed||Due to the long pendency of reference (23 years), and the wife of the proceedee having passed away, the ex parte order was set aside.|
|6.||Samad Ali v. Union of India||2012(5) GLT 162 MANU/GH/ 0614/2012||Allowed||The proceedee being an illiterate and poor man, submitted the requisite documents to the clerk who assured him that they would be admitted. He was of the bona fide belief that there was no need for him to attend the proceedings after that. The ex parte order was set aside.|