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National Human Rights Commission VS State of Arunachal Pradesh

CASE BRIEF

Decided On: 09/01/1996

Equivalent Citations: 1996 AIR 1234, 1996 SCC (1) 742

Case Type: Public Interest Petition

Bench: Ahmadi A.M. (Cj)

Petitioner: National Human Rights Commission

First Respondent: State of Arunachal Pradesh

Second Respondent: The Union of India

Statutes Referred: Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (No.10 of 1994); Citizenship Act, 1955; Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985

Facts:

  • A large number of Chakmas were displaced from erstwhile East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) by the Kaptai Hydel Power Project in 1964 and took shelter in Assam and Tripura, most of them becoming citizens of India in due course of time.
  • At the request of the State Government, about 4,012 Chakmas were settled in parts of NEFA (North-East Frontier Agency – now Arunachal Pradesh) with some land that had been allotted to them in consultation with local tries.
  • The Chakmas were also provided with rehabilitation assistance @ Rs.4,200/family by the Government of India.
  • The present population of the Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh may be estimated at around 65,000.
  • Groups of Chakmas made representations for the grant of their citizenship under Section 5(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 before the Deputy Commissioner, but no reciprocation had been made on the latter’s behalf. The lack of reciprocation had been portrayed to the petitioner.
  • The relation between the citizens of Arunachal Pradesh and Chakmas had deteriorated to such extents that there had been complaints regarding attempts of forceful expulsion of the latter.
  • On September 9, 1994, the People’s Union for Civil Rights issued letters to the Chief Secretary, Arunachal Pradesh, and the Home Secretary, Government of India bringing the attention of the National Human Rights Commission (hereinafter mentioned as NHRC) to the issue.
  • On September 30, 1994, The Chief Secretary faxed a reply reassuring that adequate police protection was provided to the Chakmas.
  • The Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas (hereinafter mentioned as CCRC), along with the NHRC, filed a representation on October 15, 1994, containing a press report carried in “The Telegraph” dated August 26, 1994.
  • The press report stated that the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (hereinafter mentioned as AAPSU) issued “quit notices” to all the alleged foreigners, included Chakma, to leave the State by September 30, 1995 failure to do which was threatened with the use of force.
  • On October 28, 1994, the NHRC issued notices to the first and second respondents calling for their reports on the issue.
  • On November 22, 1994, a note was sent to the petitioner, by the Ministry of Home Affairs reaffirming its intention to grant citizenship to the Chakmas.
  • December 7, 1994, the first and second respondents were informed by the NHRC for the evaluation of steps taken by them for the protection of Chakmas. However, this direction was ignored till September 25, 1995, when the first respondent asked for a four weeks’ duration to file a supplementary report, but did not comply with its own deadline.
  • Urgent petitions were sent by the CCRC to the NHRC on October 12 and October 28, 1995, regarding an immediate threat to the lives of the Chakmas.
  • On October 29, 1995, a prima facie conclusion was recorded by the NHRC that the officers of the first respondent were working in coordination with the AAPSU with a common view of expelling the Chakmas from the State of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • As a result of doubts regarding its capacity to sustain the Chakmas in their habitat and delay on the part of the first respondent, the NHRC decided to approach the Court.

Issues Involved:

  • Whether ousting of a migrant tribe such as the Chakma violates Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
  • Whether the procedure followed for the registration and conferring of citizenship was done by the book.

Contentions by the Parties:

Petitioner’s Arguments-

  • The Chakmas, settled mainly in the State of Arunachal Pradesh, are being persecuted by sections of the citizens of the State of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The first respondent had consistently delayed the matter regarding the safety of the Chakmas.

Respondents’ Arguments-

  • According to the Union of India, the second respondent, the first respondent had been expressing reservations on account of the issue of citizenship of the Chakmas and prevented the second respondent from considering the issue by not forwarding the applications submitted by the Chakmas along with their reports for grant of citizenship as required by Rule 9 of the Citizenship Rules, 1955.
  • The Union of India is actively considering the issue of citizenship and has recommended to the first respondent that it take all necessary steps for providing security to the Chakmas.
  • The first respondent has argued that the allegations of violation of human rights are incorrect and that it has made bonafide efforts to provide amenities, and did its best to protect the lives and property of the Chakmas.
  • It was further contended that the issue of the citizenship of the Chakmas has been conclusively decided by the “Court in State of Arunachal Pradesh V. Khudiram Chakmas(1994 Supp. (1) SCC 615)” and that the Chakmas are indeed foreigners and are not entitled to any protection of fundamental rights except Article 21.
  • As a counter to the stand taken by the second respondent, the Union of India, the first respondent denied that the Union of India had sent the CRPF Battalions of its own accord but as a consequence of a letter dated 20.09.1994 asking for assistance.
  • It claims that the death of certain Chakmas were not because of the economic blockades effected by the AAPSU but were the result of a malarial epidemic.
  • The first respondent submitted this referring to the issue of grant of citizenship of the Chakmas:

“It is submitted that under the Citizensip Act, 1955 and the Rules made thereunder a specific procedure is provided for forwarding the application for grant of citizenship. According to that after receiving the application, the DC of the area makes necessary enquiries about the antecedents of the applicant and after getting a satisfactory report forwards the case to the State Government which in turn forwards it to the Central Government. It is submitted that on enquiry if the report is adverse the DC would not forward it further. It is submitted that the applications, if any, made in this regard have already been disposed of after necessary enquiry. There is no application pending before the DC.”

Rationale:

  • Our Country is one governed by the Rule of Law.
  • Our Constitution confers rights on every human being and certain others on the citizens and every person is entitled to equality before law and equal protection of the laws.
  • Owing to the aforementioned reasons, no persons shall be deprived of their lives or personal liberty except when in accordance with the law.
  • The State is bound to protect the lives and personal liberty of the people, citizens or not, and no body or group of persons, such as the AAPSU, shall have the right to threaten the Chakmas to leave the State and use force if they fail to do so.
  • No State Government can ever allow a group of people to threaten another group of people as it is dutybound to stay impartial and protect the threatened group of people, failing to do which, it fails to perform its Statutory as well as Constitutional obligations. The threatening group of people must be held liable to be dealt with in accordance with the law.
  • Owing to the prolonged stay of the Chakmas who migrated to and those born in the State, might seek citizenship under Section 5 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and may be registered as a citizen of India if he or she satisfies the requirement.
  • The procedure to be followed for such registration has been outlined in Part II of the Citizenship Rules,1956. According to these rules, the application for registration has to be made in the prescribed form, duly affirmed, to the Collector within whose jurisdiction he resides. After such applications are received, the authority to register a person as a citizen of India is vested upon an officer named under Rule 8 of the Citizenship Rules, 1956. The Collector is expected to transmit every application under Section5(1)(a) of the Act to the Central Government under Rule 9.
  • After reading the rules, it can be clearly determined that the duty of the Collector is to merely send the application to the Central Government once they receive it. Yet it is an admitted fact that the Deputy Collector(DC) makes an enquiry and if the report is found to be adverse, the Deputy Collector refuses to forward the application and by doing so, the Deputy Collector fails to perform its duty and prevents the Central Government in performing its duty under the Act and the Rules.
  • By refusing to forward their applications, the Chakmas are denied of their rights, both Constitutional and Statutory, to be considered for being the citizens of India.

Judgement:

The petition was allowed, and the first and second respondents were directed by the Court, by way of a writ of mandamus, as under-

  • The first respondent, the State of Arunachal Pradesh, shall ensure that the life and personal liberty of each and every Chakma residing within the State shall be protected and any attempt to forcibly evict or drive them out of the State by organised groups, such as the AAPSU, shall be repelled, if necessary by requisitioning the service of para-military or police force, and if additional forces are considered necessary to carry out this direction, the first respondent will request the second respondent, the Union of India, to provide such additional force, and the second respondent shall provide such additional force as is necessary to protect the lives and liberty of the Chakmas.
  • Except in accordance with law, the Chakmas shall not be evicted from their homes and shall not be denied domestic life and comfort therein.
  • The first respondent, the State of Arunachal Pradesh, shall act in accordance with law and deal with the quit notices and ultimatums issued by the AAPSU and any other group that threaten the life and liberty of each and every Chakma.
  • The application made for registration as citizen of India by the Chakma or Chakmas under Section 5 of the Act, shall be entered in the register maintained for the purpose and shall be forwarded by the Collector or the DC who receives them under the relevant rule, with or without enquiry, as the case may be, to the Central Government for its consideration in accordance with law; even returned applications shall be called back or fresh ones shall be processed and forwarded to the Central Government for consideration.
  • While any application made for the registration as a citizen of India by the Chakmas under Section 5 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, maybe pending consideration, the concerned person or people shall not be evicted or be removed from their occupation by the first respondent, State of Arunachal Pradesh, on the grounds that they are not the citizen of India until the competent authority makes such decision.
  • The cost of this petition, which quantifies to Rs. 10,000, must be paid to the petitioner by the first respondent within six weeks from the day of the judgement, by depositing the aforementioned amount in the office of the NHRC, New Delhi.
  • The petition shall stand so disposed of.

Rule of Law:

The question of grant of citizenship is entirely governed by the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Central Government is the sole authority to grant citizenship. The State Government has no jurisdiction in the matter.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, it can be said that under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, no person or group, citizen or not, may be deprived of life and liberty by any body or organization and that they must be protected from any such threats by the State, or it fails to perform its Constitutional as well as Statutory obligations.

Prepared by Soumya Banerjee