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A declared foreigner and foreigners’ tribunal

Topics Covered: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

A declared foreigner and foreigners’ tribunal

Context: Siddeque Ali has become the last declared foreigner to be released from the only detention centre in Barak Valley in Assam as the beneficiary of a Supreme Court order.

What has the Court said?

In April this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court had directed the release of those detainees who were declared foreigners and have been lodged in the detention centres of Assam for two years or more.

The Court had also lowered the personal bond amount from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5,000.

So far, 339 DFs have been released from the detention centres since April 13.

Who is a declared foreigner?

A declared foreigner, or DF, is a person marked by any of the 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) in Assam for allegedly failing to prove their citizenship after the State police’s Border wing marks him or her as an illegal immigrant.

Why such measures are necessary?

  • There are a total of 802 declared foreigners in various detention centres of Assam.
  • Some people are declared foreigners on account of poor documentation or poor legal assistance and lack of resources. They have not been able to prove they are Indian citizens.
  • Some are either too poor to pursue their cases in higher courts or have their appeals turned down.
  • 29 declared foreigners have died in detention due to various ailments since 2016, with ten of them having died between March 1, 2019 and February 20 this year.

As human beings, they also have at least the basic human right to live and not to die of COVID-19 in the precincts of a prison, which has despicable living conditions.

What is a Foreigners tribunal?

In 1964, the govt brought in the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order.

Composition: Advocates not below the age of 35 years of age with at least 7 years of practice (or) Retired Judicial Officers from the Assam Judicial Service (or) Retired IAS of ACS Officers (not below the rank of Secretary/Addl. Secretary) having experience in quasi-judicial works.

Who can setup these tribunals?

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals (quasi-judicial bodies) to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.

Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.

Typically, the tribunals there have seen two kinds of cases: those concerning persons against whom a reference has been made by the border police and those whose names in the electoral roll has a “D”, or “doubtful”, marked against them.

Who can approach?

The amended order (Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019) also empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals. Earlier, only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) (IMDT) Act vs Foreigners Tribunal (Order) 1964.
  2. Burden of proof under this order.
  3. Powers to approach the tribunal and kind of cases to be decided by the tribunal.
  4. Composition of the tribunal.
  5. Tribunals vs Courts.
  6. NPR vs NRC.
  7. Geographical location of Assam and other NE states.
  8. Refugee vs illegal Migrants.
  9. Fundamental Rights available for Foreigners and other constitutional provisions wrt to Foreigners.
  10. Human Rights vs Fundamental Rights.

Mains Link:

Discuss briefly the laws that are in place to tackle illegal non-citizens in the country. Why was the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 amended? Explain.

Sources: the Hindu.