Foreigners Tribunals

SEP 20

Preliminary   > Security   >   Border area management   >   Illegal migration

Why in news?

  • The National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on August 31, 2019 is the "Final NRC", ruled a Foreigners' Tribunal (FT) in Assam, even as the Registrar General of India is yet to notify it.

About National Register of Citizens:

  • At its core, the NRC is an official record of those who are legal Indian citizens.
  • It includes demographic information about all those individuals who qualify as citizens of India as per the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The register was first prepared after the 1951 Census of India and since then it has not been updated until recently.
  • So far, such a database has only been maintained for the state of Assam.

Why was NRC updated for Assam?

  • This has been a state-specific exercise to keep its ethnic uniqueness unaltered
  • In 2014, the SC ordered the updation of the of NRC, in accordance with Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship Rules, 2003 in all parts of Assam.
  • The process officially started in 2015 and the updated final NRC was released on August 31, with over 1.9 million applicants failing to make it to the NRC list.

About Foreigners Tribunals:

  • Foreigners’ Tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies established as per the Foreigners’ Tribunal Order, 1964 and the Foreigners’ Act, 1946.
  • It is for those who have been left out in the final NRC list or have been marked as ‘D’ meaning ‘doubtful’.
  • The ones falling under this category have the right to appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal.
  • Under the provisions of Foreigners’ Act, 1946 and Foreigners Tribunal Order, 1964, only Foreigner Tribunals have the right to declare a person as a foreigner.
  • Thus, non-inclusion of a person’s name in the NRC does not by itself amount to him/her being declared a foreigner.

Appeal and Burden of Proof

  • However, if declared a foreigner or placed under the doubtful category ‘the burden of proof lies with the accused’.
  • A person falling under such category will have the right to appeal at the Foreigners Tribunal.
  • Following the NRC row in Assam, Government of India extended the time-limit for filing of appeals from 60 days to 120 days. Amendments in this regard were made in the Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019.

Powers of Tribunal

  • In the Foreigners’ Tribunal Order, 1964 the powers of the Tribunal have been laid down:
    • The Tribunal shall have the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
    • The Tribunal can summon and ask for the attendance of any person and examine him/her on oath.
    • The Tribunal can ask anyone to produce the required documents,
    • The Tribunal can commission examining any witness, as and when required.

Add ons:

    • As per the website of Government of Assam, there are 100 numbers of Foreigners Tribunals functioning in Assam.
    • Before the foreigner tribunals came into existence Illegal Migrant Determination Tribunals (IMDT) existed. Following an Apex Court order IMDT Act was repealed.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

With reference to Foreigners Tribunals, consider the following statements:

1. It is a quasi-judicial bodies established under Citizenship Act, 1955. 

2. The Tribunal will have the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer