Foreigners’ Tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies established as per the Foreigners’ Tribunal Order, 1964 and the Foreigners’ Act, 1946. It is for those who have been left out in the final NRC list or have been marked as ‘D’ meaning ‘doubtful’. The ones falling under this category have the right to appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal.
Under the provisions of Foreigners’ Act, 1946 and Foreigners Tribunal Order, 1964, only Foreigner Tribunals have the right to declare a person as a foreigner.
Thus, non-inclusion of a person’s name in the NRC does not by itself amount to him/her being declared a foreigner.
Appeal and Burden of Proof
However, if declared a foreigner or placed under the doubtful category ‘the burden of proof lies with the accused’. Section 9 of the foreigners act reads, “If in any case not falling under section 8 any question arises with reference to this Act or any order made or direction given thereunder, whether any person is or is not a foreigner or is or is not a foreigner of a particular class- or description the onus of proving that such person is not a foreigner or is not a foreigner of such particular class or description, lie upon such person.”
A person falling under such category will have the right to appeal at the Foreigners Tribunal.
Following the NRC row in Assam, Government of India extended the time-limit for filing of appeals from 60 days to 120 days. Amendments in this regard were made in the Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019.
Powers of Tribunal
In the Foreigners’ Tribunal Order, 1964 the powers of the Tribunal have been laid down:-
- The Tribunal shall have the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
- The Tribunal can summon and ask for the attendance of any person and examine him/her on oath.
- The Tribunal can ask anyone to produce the required documents,
- The Tribunal can commission examining any witness, as and when required.
Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam
As per the website of Government of Assam, there are 100 numbers of Foreigners Tribunals functioning in Assam. Before the foreigner tribunals came into existence Illegal Migrant Determination Tribunals (IMDT) existed. Following an Apex Court order IMDT Act was repealed.