Suspected of being a citizen of Bangladesh, Gujarat HC orders the parole of a man detained for 20 months

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The Gujarat High Court on Friday ordered the parole of a Chandola Lake resident, detained for nearly 19 months by Ahmedabad police, on suspicion of being a Bangladeshi citizen.

While judgment was delivered on Friday, the detailed verdict is yet to be made public.

Amir Sidikbhai Shaikh, was arrested by a Special Operations Group (SOG) official on the afternoon of June 18, 2020, apparently on his way to work, on the grounds that Amir was suspected of being a Bangladeshi national who was staying in India “without permission”.

After Amir was detained, his mother, Rashida, had approached Juhapura police station, providing a voter ID card, Rashida and her husband’s Aadhaar cards as well as Amir’s Aadhaar card and the family’s ration card, insisting that Amir be released from detention, but to no avail.

In July 2020, Rashida submitted a habeas corpus petition to Gujarat HC, asking the court to order the SOG Deputy Commissioner of Police to produce Amir in court and release him from his “unlawful detention”.

Rashida, in her petition to the Gujarat HC, had claimed that she and her husband had resided in Ahmedabad for “a very long time” with seven children, all of whom were born in Ahmedabad. At the time of Amir’s birth, Rashida was working at a construction site and Amir was born near the site and being illiterate she was unaware of birth registration and therefore did not register her birth at the time.

The birth was registered years later and according to Amir’s Aadhar card, his year of birth is 1984. At the time of detention, Amir was married and had three children of his own, all three of whom were also born in Ahmedabad.

In an additional affidavit filed by Rashida before the Gujarat HC in August 2020, it was further pointed out that Amir was detained in “the absence of an FIR or official complaint and without any genuine effort to actually identify the authenticity of his citizenship”.

She had also alleged that the “detention and witch hunt” of Amir by the SOG had been carried out as “an attempt to participate in the functions of the Aliens Court established under the Aliens (Courts) Ordinance 1964 provided for by the Aliens Act 1946 and to determine matters of citizenship”, which the SOG was doing “unlawfully and unconstitutionally”, without “jurisdiction or authority”.

Appearing before the Gujarat HC in July 2020 following the filing of the petition and on instruction from the court, SOG DCP Harshad Patel had argued that the corpus (Amir) is “suspected to be of Bangladeshi nationality and although investigated, no document was produced by him (corpus) for verification of the birth certificate or any other document that could confirm his nationality and therefore a restraining order was issued against him on 30.06.2020.”

Patel had also argued in court that “along with four other Bangladeshis, who traveled to this country two to four years ago, the corpus has been placed under a restraining order.”

The court at the time, in its order, recorded: “In view of the fact that there is no criminal history…it has been suggested that the man may have traveled to this country from Bangladesh when he was a child aged 3 to 4”.
Rashida, represented by lawyer Anand Yagnik, had said in an affidavit in August 2020 that “several people living in slums around Lake Chandola, including the family of the detainee (Amir) due to their origin from West Bengal, were hovering under the cloud of suspicion …and again the respondents (police authorities) detain them and then release them after a few days and sometimes after a few hours The detainee (Amir) was also detained once before on the same grounds and then released at the end of the day. ”

The petitioner had also pointed out that according to Section 3 of the Citizenship Act 1955, anyone born in India on or after January 26, 1950, but before July 1, 1987, is a citizen by birth, and so , by this reasoning itself, Amir being born before 1987, is an Indian citizen by birth.

It was also clarified by Rashida that Amir’s suspicion of being Bangladeshi was far removed from reality as Rashida and her husband have nothing to do with Bangladesh and “are basically people from the minority Muslim community and migrated several years ago from West Bengal to Gujarat and resided in the slums around Chandola Lake, Ahmedabad.

It was also argued by the petitioner in a July 2020 hearing that the parents of the corpus have a PAN card and “other vital documents” and had pointed out that these documents had been reviewed “at the time of the allocation of ‘a residential land to the family in the post -Period of the Godhra incidents’.

In 2010, the government of Gujarat had decided to rehabilitate the families identified as Indian nationals who had suffered from the 2002 riots, following an order from the HC of Gujarat to this effect. AMC had awarded land near Ganeshnagar Piplaj road and Rs 50,000 to Amir’s father in April 2010.

Rashida and her husband’s home was burned down during the 2002 riots, setting many of their documents on fire, as stated in an affidavit by the petitioner.

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