Citizenship and Related Issues

What are Foreigners’ Tribunals?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC, NPR

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Guwahati High Court has asked the Centre and the Assam government to collectively decide whether or not the ministerial staff for 200 additional Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) would be appointed.

Do you know?

The Guwahati High Court has largest jurisdiction in terms of states, with its area covering the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram.

What is Foreigners Tribunal?

  • The foreigners tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, unique to Assam, to determine if a person staying illegally is a “foreigner” or not.
  • With Assam’s NRC as the backdrop, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has laid out specific guidelines to detect, detain and deport foreign nationals staying illegally across the country.
  • The MHA has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and UTs to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
  • Earlier, such powers to constitute tribunals vested with the Centre only.

Why need such tribunals?

  • In other parts, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he or she is produced before the local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • The punishment ranges from imprisonment of three months to eight years.
  • Once the accused have completed the sentence, the court orders their deportation, and they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them.

What was the last amendment?

  • The 1964 order on Constitution of Tribunals said: “The Central Government may by order, refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose.
  • The amended order issued says – “for words Central Government may,’ the words ‘the Central Government or the State Government or the UT administration or the District Collector or the District Magistrate may’ shall be substituted.”

Impact of the Amendment

  • The amended Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019 also empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals.
  • Earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect, but with the final NRC about to be published and to give adequate opportunity to those not included, this has been done.
  • If a person doesn’t find his or her name in the final list, they could move the Tribunal.
  • The amended order also allows District Magistrates to refer individuals who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from NRC to the Tribunals to decide if they are foreigners or not.
  • Opportunity will also be given to those who haven’t filed claims by referring their cases to the Tribunals.
  • Fresh summons will be issued to them to prove their citizenship.

 

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