Foreigner retains voting rights for more than 20 years since being declared an illegal immigrant

An Assam resident was directed by the Gauhati High Court to register with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office within 60 days. He had retained his voting rights for more than 20 years since being declared an illegal immigrant.

Jagat Ghosh was exposed as an illegal voter when the High Court was listening to a petition filed by him, challenging the May 1999 verdict of a foreigners tribunal against him. The resident of Lanka in central Assam’s Nagaon district, Ghosh entered the state from Bangladesh between January 1,1966 and March 25,1971.

The tribunal had passed an ex-parte order against Ghosh on May 3,1999 for failing to appear in person or submit documents to prove that he entered Assam before January 1,1966. The tribunal had asked him to register as a foreigner with the SP of Nagaon.

However, Ghosh came to know about the tribunal’s order in 2018, over a decade after it was issued. He went to the High Court in 2020 and said there was no question of registering as a foreigner with the authorities as he had no idea of the verdict against him.

The High Court observed that the petitioner had been casting his vote since 20 years.

“From the documents annexed by the petitioner, it appears that the petitioner had been casting his vote…. continuously from 1970 till date, thus virtually enjoying all the rights and privileges of being a citizen of this country.”

Citizenship Act of 1955 deals with the acquisition and termination of citizenship after the commencement of the Constitution. According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, people who entered Assam between January 1,1966 and March 25, 1971 and have been declared “foreigners” are supposed to register with the designated authority within 60 days. Their names, if included in electoral rolls, need to be removed for 10 years, although they will continue to enjoy other rights. However, they can become a citizen of India after 10 years, based on proof, paving the way for re-inclusion in the voters’ list.

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