The Gauhati High Court Friday granted interim bail to retired Army subedar Mohammad Sanaullah, who was declared an illegal foreigner in Assam and lodged in a detention centre last month. The court order ensures his release from detention while his appeal against the order by the Foreigners’ Tribunal continues in the High Court. Sanaullah (52), retired as a subedar with the Army Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) in August 2017, after serving in insurgency-affected areas of Jammu & Kashmir and the North-East.
After retirement, Sanaullah joined the Border Wing of the Assam Police as a sub-inspector in Kamrup (rural) district after qualifying the requisite tests. After investigating him as a suspected illegal foreigner in 2008-09, the Border wing of the state police put a “reference” case against him at the Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT). Sanaullah lost the case on May 23 this year and on May 29 was taken to a detention centre for illegal migrants in Assam’s Goalpara district. The FTs – 100 across the state – are quasi-judicial bodies meant to “furnish opinion on the question as to whether a person is or is not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigner’s Act, 1946”.
A division bench of the Gauhati High court comprising Justice Manojit Bhuyan and Justice Prasanta Kumar Deka said Sanaullah should be released from detention on the condition that he furnishes a bail bond of Rs 20,000 with two local sureties. The order states that Sanaullah’s biometrics shall be obtained before his release and prohibits him from leaving the territorial jurisdiction of Kamrup (Rural) and Kamrup (Metro) districts.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising appeared at the Gauhati HC and argued on behalf of Sanaullah. Other lawyers comprising Sanaullah’s legal team are H R A Choudhury, Syed Burhanur Rehman and Aman Wadud.
Rehman told The Indian Express, “We had filed a writ petition against the FT order and an interlocutory application (IA) seeking his release. Hearing the writ petition, the honourable court has issued notices to the Union of India, government of Assam, NRC authorities, the Election Commission of India and a retired Assam police officer Chandramal Das.”
The basis of the “reference” to the FT was an interrogation investigation report by Das, then sub-inspector of the Border wing, against Sanaullah in 2008-09. The three witnesses named in that report Amjad Ali, Mohammad Kuran Ali and Mohammad Sobahan Ali – all residents of Kalahikash village under Boko police station of Kamrup district from where Sanaullah is from – lodged an FIR against Das earlier this week saying that their depositions were fictitious, that their names were included without permission and that signatures were faked.
Sanaullah’s family and lawyers had pointed out multiple anomalies in Sanaullah’s purported confession, attached in the investigation report, and alleged it was completely fabricated.
Sanaullah in this “confession” says that he was born in Dhaka in Bangladesh. “As per my knowledge, I was born at village Kasimpur of Dhaka district in Bangladesh. I cannot remember the name of police station.I am an illiterate person, I have not casted vote till date.” A part of the alleged confession is in Assamese.
The report describes Sanaullah as a “labourer” – when he was serving in the Army; calls him “illiterate” and gets the names of his children wrong. Moreover, as Sanaullah submitted to the FT during the case, he had never met the police officer and on the day of the supposed interrogation – May 23, 2008, and July 27, 2009- he was “in active service in Counter Insurgency Area (OP HIFAZAT, Manipur)”.
Das has claimed in a television interview that it was a case of mistaken identity and the Sanaullah he had interrogated in 2008-09 was a different person and not the Army veteran.