Ministry of Home Affairs has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, allowing every state and territory to have tribunals dedicated towards detection, detention and deportation of illegal foreign immigrants across the country, reports The Hindu.
With Assam’s National Register of Citizens as the backdrop, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has laid out specific guidelines for identifying and prosecuting illegal immigrants.
The amendment 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 union government.
The amended order issued last week says that ‘the Central Government or the State Government or the Union Territory administration or the District Collector or the District Magistrate may by order, refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946) to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose, for its opinion.”
Quasi-judicial tribunals are unique to Assam. In other parts of the country, Once an illegal immigrant is apprehended by the police, he or she is prosecuted by the local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946. If convicted, they serve jail-term ranging from three months to eight years. After which, if the court orders their deportation, they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them.
The amended regulations also empower individuals to approach the Tribunals. “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. If a person doesn’t find his or her name in the final list, they could move the Tribunal,” explained a senior government official.