Constituting Foreigners Tribunals

Published: June 10, 2019

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 empowering district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not. The power to constitute tribunal was earlier vested with the central government.

Foreigner Tribunal

The 1964 constitution order of the foreigner’s tribunal empowered the central government to refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within the meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose for its opinion.

These quasi-judicial bodies which were tasked to determine if a person staying illegally is a foreigner or not were unique to Assam till now. In other parts of the country, if a foreigner has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he/she was produced before a local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946, with the punishment ranging three months to eight years in jail.

After the accused have served the sentence, the court used to order their deportation. They were moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them.

Other Changes to the Foreigner Tribunal Order

In the backdrop of various allegations of missing names from the Assam Registry of Citizens, the following amendments have been made:

  • Empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals. Now If a person doesn t find his or her name in the final list, they could move the Tribunal. Earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect.
  • District Magistrates can also refer individuals to the tribunal who haven t filed claims against their exclusion from NRC to the Tribunals to decide if they are foreigners or not.

These amendments were incorporated to Opportunity will also be given to those who haven t filed claims by referring their cases to the Tribunals. About 4 lakh residents have not filed claims against their exclusion from the final draft of NRC.

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