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Foreigners’ Tribunals

The Gauhati High Court has asked the Centre and the Assam government to decide collectively whether the ministerial staff for 200 additional Foreigners’ Tribunals would be appointed.

Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) are quasi-judicial bodies established as per the Foreigners’ Tribunal Order, 1964 and the Foreigners’ Act, 1946.

It is unique to Assam (due to Assam’s National Register of Citizens).

Establishment – In the beginning, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has amended the 1964 Order to empower district magistrates in all States and UTs to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.

Powers of Tribunal – According to the Foreigners’ Tribunal Order, 1964 the Foreigners’ Tribunal,

    1. Shall have the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
    2. Can summon and ask for the attendance of any person and examine him/her on oath.
    3. Can ask anyone to produce the required documents,
    4. Can commission examining any witness, as and when required.

Working – 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.

The FT is for those who have been left out in the final NRC list or have been marked as ‘D’ (‘doubtful’). The ones falling under this category have the right to appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal.

Res judicata

In law, there is a principle known as res judicata, which (barring exceptional circumstances) prevents anyone from reopening an issue that has been decided by a court.

The purpose behind res judicata is to prevent the continuous harassment of ordinary people by powerful authorities, such as the State.

This principle protects individuals against State impunity.

However, the Gauhati high court (HC) in 2018 held that foreigners’ tribunals were not bound by the principle of res judicata.


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