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Assam Govt Asks Foreigners' Tribunals To Give Opinion, Not Orders on Nationality

The FTs are quasi-judicial bodies that decide citizenship in Assam, set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1964.

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Image of Assam map and NRC illustration used for representational purposes.
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The Assam government has directed Foreigners' Tribunals (FTs) only to give opinion on a person's nationality and not pass any "consequential orders/directions", The Indian Express reported on Monday. FTs are quasi-judicial bodies that decide citizenship in Assam, set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1964.

On 4 September, Parijat Bhuyan, the deputy secretary of the Political (B) Department of the Assam government, wrote a letter to the members of the FTs, saying a performance assessment exercise of "opinions" passed by the FTs was carried out by the State Judicial Department. It found that "consequential orders" had been passed by the members while rendering an opinion, something which the Judicial Department has "viewed with seriousness".

"This may not be a correct approach," the letter said.

'FT Members Not Properly Trained'

"Some of them are not properly trained, and they end up giving 'consequential orders' or extra opinion in the order. That is not their mandate," an official of the state's Home and Political department told The Indian Express, saying that the letter was part of the process of "educating members of the FTs".

He said the order was passed so that the FT members follow the rules and do not pass such opinions in the future.

"The sole purpose of the FTs — which are quasi-judicial forums — is to give an opinion whether someone is a foreigner or an Indian. After that, the state's executive agencies take consequential action accordingly," he added.

Bhuyan said in his letter that the Judicial Department had noted that consequential orders for "deletion of names from voter list, arrest, detention and deportation of the declared foreigners" had been passed. Accordingly, the letter requested the FT members to adhere to the Judicial Department's views.

Mustafa Khaddam Hussain, an advocate in the Gauhati High Court and legal advisor of the All Assam Minority Students' Union, said, "FT members have the habit of passing orders that suggest deletion of names from voters lists, references against other family members of the person being tried, arrests, detention and deportation etc. Such orders are being passed beyond their jurisdiction. We have raised this issue time and again — so such an action should have been taken earlier."

The FTs are now the last recourse for the 19 lakh excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC), reported the daily.

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What Are the FTs?

According to the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, "FTs were constituted to give an 'opinion' on whether a person is a foreigner or not, as per Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946)".

In "consequential orders", courts direct government departments to take any action, while in an "opinion", the government decides what action needs to be taken.

The FTs have also been deciding cases of doubtful voters in Assam and other references made by the Border Police in the state.

(With inputs from The Indian Express.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Edited By :Tejas Harad
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