Read the judgement here.
Date of decision: 28.01.2022
Court: Gauhati High Court
Judges: Justices N. Kotiswar Singh and Malasri Nandi
Summary: The Foreigners’ Tribunal reviewed its earlier order which declared the Petitioner as not a foreigner without giving a notice to the Petitioner. The High Court set aside this order as being impermissible in law because of the want of notice.
Facts: The Petitioner had been proceeded against by the Foreigners’ Tribunal, Diphu, (‘FT’) which passed an order dated 04.03.2015 ascertaining that the Petitioner was an Indian citizen by birth and not a foreigner. On 16.03.2020, following a letter received by the Superintendent of Police (Border), the FT reviewed its earlier order without giving notice to the Petitioner. Following this, the Petitioner was taken into custody. The Petitioner argued before the Gauhati High Court that this review was ex facie illegal and also violated the principle of res judicata.
Holding: The High Court held that the review was impermissible in law and set aside the impugned order by the FT. Not giving notice to the Petitioner amounted to the FT changing its opinion behind the Petitioner’s back. However, the court did not go into the question of whether such a review by the FT was legally permissible in the first place or not.
Significance: The High Court affirms that the necessity of proper notice in a proceedings before the FTs applies equally to review of a previous order by the FT, even if such review is sought by the State. But the court remains silent on whether or not a review of an FT order can be sought by the State before the FT itself, as opposed to appealing to the High Court. Several Supreme Court judgments have held that tribunals cannot review their own orders unless such a power is provided to them in a statute and any such review order is ultra vires. One can locate such statutory power in Order 3C of the Foreigners’ (Tribunal) Order, 1964. This wording of this provision is such that such a review can only be sought in case of an ex-parte order against the procedee within thirty days of the impugned order. While the provision has been used in reviewing non ex-parte orders as well, such review can be sought by the proceedee, and a review after thirty days of the order may only take place in case of grave injustice. It is then unclear whether the State could seek a review in the present case. The High Court sidesteps this question explicitly, making no attempt to quash the review order on this ground and leaving the law on this point unclear.
Table of Authorities:
- Mustt. Fulbanu Nessa @ Fulbanu Begum v. Union of India, WP(C)/725/2021
- Harbajan Singh v. Karam Singh, (1966) 1 SCR 817
- Kalabharati Advertising v. Hemant Vimalnath Narichania, (2010) 9 SCC 437
- Kapra Mazdoor Ekta Union v. Birla Cotton Spinning and Weaving Mill Ltd. (2005) 13 SCC 777
- Abdul Salam v. Union of India and Ors WP(C) 1505/2020
- Kulsum Bibi v. Union of India and Ors WP(C) 5632/2016
This case 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. This note was prepared by Farhan Zia.