The Advocate General of Maharashtra, Darius Khambatta on Monday informed the Bombay High Court that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is a part of India and therefore, a man who had settled in Mumbai after fleeing from PoK as a child is an Indian citizen. Siraj Khan, who lives with his wife and three children in Wadala, had left PoK in 1995 when he was nine.
Addressing the court, Khambatta said, “No FIR should have been registered against Khan. According to him, he comes from PoK and it has been acknowledged by parliament that PoK is a part of India.
Therefore, he is an Indian citizen.” A division bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and AR Joshi has now directed the Union of India to state at the next hearing slated for August 21 whether they support the State of Maharashtra’s stand. The bench noted that if the Union supports the stand, then the FIR against Khan lodged under various sections of the Passport Act and Foreigner’s Act, ‘could not be pursued’ and would be ‘ill-advised’.
According to Khan’s lawyer Ejaz Naqvi, Khan was born in 1985 at Manshera in PoK. As his parents insisted on his going to school everyday, he got fed up and decided to run away. One day, he bunked school and caught a train that brought him to Attari border where he saw people crossing the barbed wire fence to the other side. He too joined them and landed in India.
The petition claims that Khan reached Delhi in December 1995. After a few days, he went to Varanasi where he worked in a restaurant before reaching Mumbai. However, in 1998, when he tried to return to PoK, a railway ticket checker in Ahmedabad caught him and handed him over to the police. Khan then spent a year at a juvenile home in Gujarat, from where he was released in 1999.
Thereafter, he came back to Mumbai and got a job with a catering company. Once again, he attempted to go to PoK through the Wagah border but authorities denied him entry and threatened to put him behind bars, Khan had said in the petition.
Khan said he approached Maharashtra CID in 2009 to seek their help in going back to PoK but was arrested under the Passport Act and Foreign Citizen Act. He was later released on bail. He has petitioned the court to direct the government to deport him back to PoK as he is unable to get a job in India.
However, the court observed that if the State of Maharashtra’s stance was correct and Khan was Indian, the question of deportation would not arise.