What is a Foreigners Tribunal (FT)?

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What is a Foreigners Tribunal (FT)? Blog Image


The Supreme Court (SC) recently halted the deportation of a woman who was declared a foreigner by a Foreigners' Tribunal in Assam.

About Foreigners Tribunal (FT): 

  • The FTs came into existence through the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, in order to let state administration (District collector/District Magistrate) to make reference about a person suspected to be a foreigner to the Tribunals. 
  • The Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, was enacted by the Central government through the use of powers granted under Section 3 of the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • The Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, applies to the whole of India, yet, FTs exist only in Assam as of now.
  • In other states, if an illegal immigrant is found, he is produced before a local court and dealt with as per the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • Prior to the 2019 amendment to the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, only the Centre was empowered to establish FTs in states, but after this amendment, the power has been granted to states as well.
  • Need for FT:
    • The superintendents of police (SPs) and district commissioners were empowered to detect suspected foreigners. References for these “suspected persons” were required to be made before an authority which came into existence through the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964.
    • The Election Commission of India (ECI) can also refer cases of D or Doubtful votersto the local SP, who then refers them to a tribunal to verify their citizenship.
    • The persons excluded from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as released in August 2019 can appeal before the FTs to prove their citizenship.
  • What is FT supposed to do after receiving a reference against a person?
    • The Tribunal is supposed to serve upon such person a copy of the main grounds on which he is alleged to be a foreigner, as well asa show cause notice, within 10days of receipt of reference from the concerned authority.
    • The notice should clearly indicate that the burden is on the proceeded to prove that he or she is not a foreigner.
    • The FT is to give the person a reasonable opportunity to make a representation (in person or through a lawyer) and produce evidence in support of his case.
    • If the proceeded fails to produce any proof in support of his claim of citizenship and also not able to arrange for bail, the FT shall detain him and send him to a detention centre.
  • The Supreme Court (SC) held that the decision of the FTs regarding the nationality of a person will be binding. Also, the decision of the tribunal will be given more importance than that of the Government or credentials and the NRC verification authority.

Q1: Who is a D-voter? 

D-voters or doubtful voters are those who could not provide evidence in favor of their Indian nationality and whose cases are pending with the Foreigners Tribunals or who have been declared as foreigners by the Tribunal. Doubtful voters are not eligible to cast their vote in elections as their Indian citizenship is not confirmed. They are also barred from contesting elections in the country. The marking as doubtful voter is a temporary measure and cannot be prolonged.

Source: Supreme Court halts deportation of Cooch Behar woman declared foreigner by tribunal