Prelims level : Governance Mains level : GS-II Governance, Social Justice and IR
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Why in News:

  • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has laid out specific guidelines to detect, detain and deport foreign nationals staying illegally across the country.

Background: / More in News:

  • The MHA has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered 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.
  • Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.    The 1964 order on Constitution of Tribunals said:
  • “The Central Government may by order, refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within the meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946) to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose, for its opinion.”
  • The tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, unique to Assam, to determine if a person staying
  • illegally is a “foreigner” or not.
  • In other parts, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he or she is 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.
  • Once the accused have served the sentence, the court orders their deportation, and they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them.

NRC and Foreigners Tribunals:

  • According to the Assam Accord, individuals who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, are illegal immigrants.
  • There are two parallel processes to establish citizenship:
  • National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is under preparation, and    Foreigners Tribunals operating under the Foreigners Act,
  • As per directions of the Supreme Court, the Registrar General of India (RGI) published the final draft list of NRC on July 30 last year to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971.
  • Nearly 40 lakh people were excluded from Assam’s final draft published last year. As many as 36 lakh of those excluded have filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents haven’t applied.
  • The final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is being updated in Assam, will be published by July 31, 2019.
  • The tribunals will be required after the publication of the final NRC
  • The amended Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019 empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals, 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, but with the final NRC about to be published and to give adequate opportunity to those not included, this has been done.
  • The amended order also allows 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. MHA sanctioned around 1,000 Tribunals to be set up in Assam in the wake of the publication of the final NRC by July 31.
    Recently, The Supreme Court of India has held that a Foreigner Tribunal’s order declaring
    a person as an illegal foreigner will be binding and will prevail over government decision to include or exclude a name from National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
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