People wait outside the foreigners’ tribunal office in Goalpara, Assam. (HT archive)
People wait outside the foreigners’ tribunal office in Goalpara, Assam. (HT archive)

Don’t pass consequential orders, Assam directs foreigners’ tribunals

The September 4 letter by the political department of the government to members of all 100 FTs in the state followed a ‘performance assessment exercise’ by the state judicial department on the basis of randomly selected opinions given by FT members
UPDATED ON SEP 13, 2021 10:41 AM IST

The Assam government has asked foreigners tribunals (FTs), which have the power of declaring a person a foreigner or not, to desist from passing consequential orders.

The September 4 letter by the political department of the government to members of all 100 FTs in the state followed a ‘performance assessment exercise’ by the state judicial department on the basis of randomly selected opinions given by FT members.

FTs are quasi-judicial bodies established in Assam under provisions of Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 and Foreigners Act, 1946. They are entrusted with the task of declaring whether anyone whose name is missing from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) or has been declared a ‘doubtful voter’ because of questions about their citizenship, is a foreigner or not.

In order to arrive at their opinion, FTs can summon and ask for attendance of any person and examine them under oath and ask appellants to submit required documents and examine witnesses.

Consequential orders are generally made by courts following orders on cases directing government departments to take some action. But FTs don’t have the power to pass directions such as ordering someone’s arrest, removal or name from voters’ list, deportation etc.

“The judicial department has viewed with seriousness the passing of consequential directions/orders by learned members while rendering opinion,” said the letter by Parijat Bhuyan, deputy secretary in the department.

The letter cited the judicial department’s assessment where it noted “consequential order for deletion of names from voters list, arrest and detention of declared foreigners” have been passed by FTs. “This may not be necessary,” it said.

“FTs have been empowered to give opinion and not pass consequential orders. Therefore, the government move is a correct one. Sometimes, due to consequential orders passed by FTs appellants are immediately arrested and sent to detention centres,” said advocate Santanu Borthakur.

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