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Assam instructs Foreigners’ Tribunals not to issue “consequential orders” regarding detention and deportation

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The Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, established FTs to provide an “opinion” on whether or not a person is a foreigner.

However, according to the letter dated September 4, when offering their opinion, the FT members were passing “consequential orders/directions.”

The Assam government has instructed the Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs), which adjudicate citizenship in the state, to limit itself to providing “opinions” on a person’s nationality and not to issue any “consequential orders.”

Written communication from deputy secretary of the Assam government’s Political (B) Department, to members of FTs

On September 4, a written communication from Parijat Bhuyan, deputy secretary of the Assam government’s Political (B) Department, to members of FTs stated that the State Judicial Department had conducted a performance assessment exercise of “opinions” passed by FTs, and found that members had passed “consequential orders” while rendering opinion — something the state’s Judicial Department “has not tolerated.”

FTs, which were established by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1964 to adjudicate citizenship in Assam, is now the last resort for the 19 lakh people who have been excluded from the disputed National Register of Citizens (NRC).

FTs have been adjudicating cases of “doubtful voters” and other references made by the Border Police in Assam, in addition to NRC drop-outs.

FTs established to discern whether a person is a foreigner or not; FT not the best approach

The Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, established FTs to provide an “opinion” on whether a person is a foreigner or not, by the Foreigners Act, 1946. (31 of 1946).

However, the FT members were passing “consequential orders/directions” while offering their opinion, according to the letter dated September 4. The letter stated, “This may not be the best approach.”

The courts can issue ‘consequential orders,’ which instruct government departments to take action, whereas the government decides what action is necessary for an ‘opinion.’

An official from the state’s Home and Political department told The Indian Express that the current letter was part of an ongoing practice of “educating members of the FTs.”

“Because some of them aren’t adequately taught, they end up issuing ‘consequential orders,’ or directives with additional opinions. That is not their mandate, according to the official.

The Judicial Department issued orders for “deletion of names from voter lists, arrest, custody, and deportation of declared foreigners.”

“The FTs’ main aim — as quasi-judicial forums — is to determine whether someone is a foreigner or an Indian. The state’s executive authorities then take appropriate action,” he explained, adding that the order was passed to ensure that FT members follow the regulations and refrain from expressing such views in the future.

The Judicial Department, according to Bhuyan’s letter, has issued subsequent orders for “deletion of names from voter lists, arrest, custody, and deportation of declared foreigners.” It asked the FT members to support the Judicial Department’s viewpoints.

FT members, according to Mustafa Khaddam Hussain, advocate at the Gauhati High Court and legal advisor to the All Assam Minority Students’ Union, “have a habit of passing orders that suggest deletion of names from voter lists, references against other family members of the person being tried, arrests, detention and deportation, and so on.”

Also Read: Joint movement against hydropower project, threatens more than 22 organizations in Assam

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