SC pulls up Assam government over inadequate functioning of foreigner’s tribunal

  1. The Supreme Court has accused the Centre and the Assam government for being negligent about tackling the inflow of illegal migrants into Assam and their deportations. Further, the court has expressed concerns about the poor functioning of Foreigner Tribunals in the state.
  2. According to Citizenship Act 1955, an illegal migrant is a foreigner who enters the country without valid travel documents, like a passport and visa, or enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period. Foreigner is one who is not a citizen of India. Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.
  3. Foreigners Tribunal (FT) was set up in Assam in 1964 through the Foreigners Tribunal Order 1964. The tribunals have been mandated with identifying the legal status of suspected foreigners in Assam. At present, there are 100 FTs in Assam; of these 64 were set up in 2015, to expedite the exercise of determining illegal immigrants in the state through the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
  4. Assam also had Illegal Migrants Determination Tribunal which was established in 1985 under the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) (IMDT) Act, 1983. The tribunals only considered the cases of those who had allegedly entered India after March 25, 1971. IMDT Act was enacted to put forward the procedures to detect illegal immigrants (from Bangladesh) and expel them from Assam.
  5. IMDT Act had placed the onus of proving citizenship on the accuser, rather than the accused and thus had made determining illegal migrants difficult. In 2006, the Act was struck down by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was the main impediment the identification and deportation of illegal migrants.