Citing CAA, K’taka HC grants bail to ‘illegal’ B’desh woman

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Citing CAA, K’taka HC grants bail to ‘illegal’ B’desh woman

Bengaluru:  In the backdrop of the provision of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Karnataka High Court has granted bail to Bangladeshi Christian woman accused of being an “illegal immigrant”.

A single judge bench of Justice John Michael Cunha observed there is prima facie material to show since 2002, the woman has been residing in India. And as a result, she deserves bail in the light of the amended Section 2 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 through the CAA, 2019.

The High Court noted that the definition of “illegal migrant” under Section 2 of the Citizenship Act has been renewed after the new citizenship law was passed. As per the amendment, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will not be treated as illegal migrants under the Act.

It was alleged the woman obtained the Indian passport through fraudulent documents. The court noted these allegations of fabrication and manipulation of IDs such as Aadhaar and PAN would have to establish by the prosecution in the trial.

The petitioner told the court that in 2003, she came to India to pursue higher education. Later she married an Indian resident and obtained a passport by furnishing valid documents. In 2019, the petitioner and her son were detained by an Immigration Officer at Kolkata airport, but were released later.

After this incident, the Regional Passport Office issued a notice for the revocation of her passport, and then local police arrested her, following a complaint lodged by the Assistant Passport Officer in Bengaluru, and then remanded in judicial custody.

The FIR registered against her cited Sections 465, 471, 468 of the Indian Penal Code; Sections 5, 12 and 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and Section 3(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The lower court denied her bail, and then the woman moved the High Court.

The woman in defence pointed out the police had failed to produce the charge sheet in the matter within time and she was entitled to bail given that she has been in judicial custody since November 7, 2019.

The High Court observed that the government’s counsel did not deny the petitioner could avail the benefit of the amended Section 2 of Citizenship Act, 1955.

The High Court directed the woman to furnish a bond of Rs 2,00,000.

The court also imposed a few conditions: She shall not tamper with evidence; she shall cooperate in the investigation and shall appear before the Investigating Officer when called; She shall not leave the jurisdiction of the trial court concerned without prior permission, and she shall mark her attendance on the 1st and 15th of every calendar month between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. for a period of two months.

The Advocate for the Petitioner Ayantika Mondal stated that the Archana’s citizenship needs to be determined under section 8 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and also 9 (2) of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Central Government has not yet determined her citizenship, hence the filing of the FIR before such determination is ultra vires. Furthermore, she is also entitled to claim the benefits under the new Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 as per which protection is carved out for illegal immigrants based on religion.

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