Considering her eligibility for Indian citizenship under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the Karnataka High Court has granted bail to a Bangladeshi woman who was arrested by Bengaluru police in November last year on charges of being an illegal immigrant.
The police also said she had fraudulently obtained an Indian passport, Aadhaar card and other documents after marrying an Indian citizen.
This may be the first case of an alleged illegal immigrant being granted bail under the new citizenship law.
Archana Purnima Pramanik (37) told the High Court that she had converted to Christianity at the age of 11 at Bangladesh Adventist Seminary and College Church and decided to move to India when she was 20, Pramanik stated that she wanted to pursue a career in nursing on the advice of her parents. She was admitted to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, Ranchi, in 2003 and completed her diploma in general nursing and midwifery in 2006.
In her bail plea, Pramanik stated that she had earlier faced threats and harassment in her neighbourhood after converting to Christianity and had sought help of the police in Rajshahi division of Bangladesh.
After she met Indian citizen Rajasekaran Krishnamurthy in 2007, and married him in 2010, Pramanik reportedly moved to Bengaluru, where she obtained a voter ID card, PAN card, Aadhaar card and Indian passport.
Pramanik obtained a visa in April last year to travel to Bangladesh on Indian passport with her four-year-old son in May 2019 and was detained by immigration officials on suspicion at Kolkata airport. A complaint was filed against her in August last year by passport officials. An FIR was filed in November.
She was arrested by R T Nagar police in Bengaluru on November 7, 2019, on a complaint by passport authorities that she had fraudulently obtained an Indian passport in March last year using Aadhaar, PAN and voter ID cards. She was booked for forgery, for being an illegal immigrant under the Foreigners Act, 1946, and for obtaining an Indian passport for her son while being an alleged illegal immigrant under Section 3(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 .
Pramanik approached a sessions court in Bengaluru with a bail plea but the court rejected the plea on December 4, 2019, stating that there was prima facie evidence of manipulation of records.
She then moved the High Court.
During the course of arguments before Justice John Michael Cunha, Pramanik’s advocates relied on examples of alleged illegal immigrants accused of forgery being granted bail as well as the amended Section 2 of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, to argue that she “cannot be treated as an illegal migrant”. The government pleader did not dispute that she was entitled to benefit under the amended law.
In its order on January 27, the High Court observed that “Section 2 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 as amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 provides that, any person from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014, and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act”.
The court ordered Pramanik’s release of Pramanik on a bond of Rs 2 lakh and said there is prima facie material to show that she “has been residing in India since 2002” with her husband and child.
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