R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, April 28 - The Assam Government has decided to increase the number of Foreigners Tribunals under the provisions of the Foreigners Act to 1,000 in phased manner to expedite the cases relating to suspected foreign nationals. Meanwhile, the Government will file a fresh affidavit in the Supreme Court on its plan to deal with the suspected foreigners lodged in the detention centres.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that at present, one hundred Foreigners Tribunals are functioning in the State, but that is not adequate to deal with the cases and around two lakh cases are pending before the Tribunals. Moreover, after the publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the persons, whose names will not appear in it will have the right to appeal before the Tribunals, which will add extra burden. If the number of Tribunals is not increased, it will take years to dispose of the cases.
Sources said that keeping these aspects in mind, the Government decided to increase the number of Tribunals to 1,000 so that the cases can be disposed of as quickly as possible. The State Government sought approval of the Centre for increasing the number of Tribunals and recently, the required approval has been received, sources added. Sources admitted that it would not be possible to create 900 more Tribunals at one go and that is why, the plan is to increase the number in phased manner. In the first phase, 200 new tribunals are planned to be established.
However, creation of infrastructure will take some time and finding adequate number of qualified persons to be appointed as members may also turn out to be a problem. Sources said that a person having a law degree and seven years of experience of law practice can be appointed as members of Foreigners Tribunals and official sources claimed that finding qualified persons should not be a major issue. If required, the Government is also planning to bring in qualified persons from other parts of the country to be appointed as members of Tribunals, sources revealed.
Sources admitted that in a large number of cases, persons who were declared as foreigners by the Tribunals are reported missing and to deal with the issue, a process of taking biometrics and photographs of the persons against whom cases have been referred to the Tribunals, has started. This will not permanently solve the problem, but it will definitely help in finding such persons, sources added. At present, around 90,000 persons declared as foreigners by the Tribunals, are reported missing.
It may be mentioned here that the Supreme Court recently strongly criticized the State Government for its affidavit, in which it proposed to release the foreigners who spent more than five years in the detention centres after obtaining their biometrics and a bond. Official sources said that the State Government would file a fresh affidavit in the Apex Court in this regard after consultation with legal experts and other stakeholders. At present, around 900 persons, who were declared as foreigners by the Tribunals, are lodged in the detention centres.
Sources also admitted that the process of deportation of the persons declared as foreigners is not an easy job. “The Tribunals have declared them as foreigners, but very often, such persons do not reveal the country of their origin and in such cases, it is difficult to ascertain the country from where they came and the country of their origin will also have to accept them as its citizen before they can be deported,” sources added.