- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019. The order amends the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964.
- The new amendments has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up foreigner tribunals (FTs) to identify suspected foreigners illegally residing in India. Earlier only the Centre had the power to set up FTs.
- Currently, the quasi-judicial foreigner tribunals are unique to Assam and were set up under the Foreigners Tribunal Order 1964.
- In other parts of India, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, the person is produced before a local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946. The illegal foreigner is then subject to a prison term of 3 months to 8 years. Once the jail term is over, they are kept in detention centres until deportation to the country of origin.
- Recently, out of the apprehension that there would be an influx of petitions in the foreigners’ tribunals once the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) is published on July 31st 2019, the MHA has decided to extend assistance to the Assam government in setting up 1,000 foreigner’s tribunals.
- With the amendments to the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, the Centre has also empowered individuals to approach these tribunals. This has been done give adequate opportunity to those not included in the final NRC. Earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect.
- Further, the amended order has allowed 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.
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