AM* vs. Government of Haryana
An FIR was lodged against AM*, an Afghan for alleged failure to report his exit from Kashmir to the Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office (FRRO) and for non-possession of valid documents. Mr. AM denied non-reporting of his departure to the FRRO and the petition sought quashing of the FIR and the proceedings thereafter, in the Faridabad Magistrates Court. The case highlights the apathy the refugees in India face in absence of a specific refugee law and the ad hoc manner in which authorities treat them.
Case Details and Status
AM, an Afghan national was forced to leave Afghanistan following the political turmoil in his country and like thousands of other Afghans, sought asylum refuge in India. His home was destroyed in the civil war in Afghanistan.
Once in India, AM approached the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN agency mandated to ensure protection to refugees, and was granted refugee status by the agency in 1983. He is presently recognized as an Afghan National and a mandate refugee by the UNHCR. He also had a valid stay visa; residential permit and a valid UNHCR Refugee Certificate. In the past the authorities had always given a no objection for the renewal of his residential permit. Mr. AM had applied for citizenship more than decade ago, but the fate of the application is still unknown.
A refugee is an individual seeking refuge or asylum, an individual who is unwilling or unable to return to his country because of persecution or fear of persecution. AM was forced to flee to India with only one primary concern – to save his life. He later obtained the necessary documents required for a legal stay in India, including a residential permit.
Despite this, action was brought against the accused under section 14 of the Foreigners Act 1946, and under section 12 of the Passport Act 1967 which provides that it is an offence for a person to fail to produce for inspection a valid passport or travel document when called on to do so by a police officer. Furthermore, the Foreigners Act sets out the conditions, which a non-citizen must fulfill during his or her, stay in India including registering with an authority such as the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
AM pleaded not guilty to the offence. Although the defendant did not hold a valid passport, contrary to section 12 of the Passport Act, the court made an allowance in this case based on the peculiar status of Afghan refugees in India. The court relied on the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Guidelines, which allowed an exception to be made for Afghan refugees who held valid residence permits but not passports.
The defendant was thereby acquitted. However, the case highlights the need to put an end to the routine harassment faced by refugees in India.
*Name withheld for confidentiality.
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