In a landmark judgement, the High Court in Indian state of Meghalaya has said that Bangladeshi nationals who have settled in the northeastern state before March 24, 1971, should be treated as Indians and can be enrolled in the voters' list.
The verdict was based on a petition by over 40 refugees from Bangladesh, who were denied enrolment in the electoral roll by the district administration citing their citizenship as doubtful, Press Trust of India news agency reported today from Meghalaya's capital city Shillong.
Refugees from Amjong village near the Assam-Meghalaya border in Meghalaya's Ri-Bhoi district had moved to the High Court after their citizenship certificates were seized by the deputy commissioner.
Justice SR Sen, in his May 15 order, directed the district Deputy Commissioner Pooja Pandey to return the seized certificates to the petitioners and to enroll them in the voters' list before the next elections.
Justice Sen said there was an understanding between the two countries as to who should be allowed to stay and who should be deported back to Bangladesh.
"It is clearly understood that the forefathers of the petitioners entered India before March 24, 1971. As such there is no question of deporting them at this stage when they have acquired the right of permanent rehabilitation in Amjong village," he said.
Rejecting that they are Bangladeshi citizens, the High Court said there was no scope for their deportation and directed the state government and the centre to not disturb them but to give them proper rehabilitation.
The state government had earlier argued that the petitioners and their forefathers were not permanent citizens and were only rehabilitated temporarily by the autonomous district council.