The National Register of Citizens (NRC) has caused a lot of confusion in North-eastern states. And for a retired soldier of the Indian Army, it created sadness, more than anything else.
Md Sanaullah, who served as a subedaar, was recently declared a foreigner and sent to a detention center.
After media reports highlighted his plight, the Supreme Court pulled up the officials.
Backstory: NRC was updated for the first time in 2018
NRC was created in 1951 to weed out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants from India. After it came into existence, NRC was updated for the first time last year.
The apex court also gave a deadline of July 31 to officials to complete the process.
NRC became an electoral issue as well, with BJP promising to act against immigrants and other parties taking a softer approach.
Sanaullah retired from Army in 2017, was declared a foreigner
Now, Sanaullah, who served in the Army for 30 years, was declared as a foreigner by Foreigners' Tribunal (FT).
He was kept in police custody in North Guwahati and later sent to a detention center in Kokrajhar.
Notably, after retiring from the Indian Army in August 2017, Sanaullah took up a job as sub-inspector with Assam Police's border wing. His detention shocked his family.
Soldier's son called order arbitrary, his lawyer presented facts
Quite understandably, Sanaullah's son Shahid Akhtar called FT's order arbitrary.
His lawyer Aman Wadud concurred. He said, "They claim that since he was 20 years of age in 1986, the fact that he did not register to vote is proof that he is not an Indian citizen."
Wadud reminded that bill to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 was passed in March 1989.
Meanwhile, authorities claimed they were following the law
"The thing to understand here is that no one is declared a 'foreigner' overnight. The FT did so after due diligence and Sanaullah was required to produce documents to prove otherwise. The police detained him as we were legally bound to do so by the court," said Amingaon Additional SP Sanjib Saikia.
Subsequently, SC pulled up officials, asked them to follow process
SC noticed media reports and reacted strongly on it. A bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi rebuked NRC coordinators.
"Just because the deadline (till July 31) for publishing the (final) NRC list is approaching, it doesn't mean cut short and complete the process," CJI Gogoi said.
CJI Gogoi added media can't be wrong always and objections should be dealt with properly.