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Expert Take: The First Step To Implement NRC Outside Assam: Lawyer Aman Wadud on MHA Foreigners Tribunals’ Order

The MHA has allowed district magistrates to form Foreigners Tribunal across the country to take decisions on the citizenship of individuals.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has reportedly amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 and paved the way for setting up of tribunals across the country to detect, detain and deport foreign nationals staying illegally across the country. The ministry has given the authority to District Magistrates to form the tribunals. Lawyer Aman Wadud, speaking to NewsCentral24x7, underlined that the move is “the first step to implement NRC outside Assam”.

Wadud said, “See this order opens the road to set up Tribunal across India. So basically it’s the first step to implement NRC outside Assam.” He explained that Clause 10 of the order gives arbitrary power to the Tribunal, as it could issue notices to parties only if it finds merit.

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“Merit is not defined in the order; it will only increase arbitrariness. Moreover, according to Clause 17, the Tribunal shall have the power to regulate its own procedure, which is also there in the 1964 Order, while other judicial forums are regulated by CPC and CrPC, a quasi-judicial forum which decides the most important constitutional rights of citizenship has been given unchecked power to regulate its own procedure,” Wadud said. Based on the Foreigners’ Tribunal in Assam, he said that “the Tribunal often abuses this power according to its own whims and fancies. With 1000 Tribunals, this abuse of power will only increase”.

As per the new Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order 2019 all states are allowed to constitute their own Foreign Tribunals. Now, instead of the Union government, the district magistrates can form the tribunal, which are quasi-judicial authorities that assesses the question of the authenticity of a person’s citizenship.

On July 30, 2018, the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published in Assam amid huge controversy. The names of 40.7 lakh people were excluded from the list. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre had directed those whose names are not included in the list to approach the Foreigners Tribunal. The final NRC list will be published on July 31.

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