From declaring people as Indians in note sheets and foreigners in final orders to missing orders and duplicate rulings.
The Gauhati High Court has strongly indicted the functioning of the Foreigners’ Tribunals that will take a final call on exclusions from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, while setting aside 57 orders of an FT in Morigaon district.
The High Court said that “in the ordinary course, this would have called for some action, disciplinary or otherwise” against a former Member of the FT for inconsistencies in the orders that he passed.
The indictment assumes significance with the fate of 19 lakh people who have not found a place in the NRC awaiting decision on their exclusion by the state’s FTs. Assam has 100 FTs and 200 new tribunals are in the process of being started to meet the burden of NRC exclusions — a further 200 FTs are scheduled to begin by the end of the year.
In the High Court order dated September 19, 2019, Justice Manojit Bhuyan said: “Therefore, in all the above 57 references of the Foreigners Tribunal No.4, Morigaon, the ‘orders of disposal’ are non est in the eye of law and liable to be set aside, which is accordingly done. All the above 57 references shall now be heard afresh from the respective stages. The Member of the Tribunal shall list the above references in the Notice Board of the Tribunal giving fresh dates. Fresh notice may also be issued to the proceedees.”
The order said: “As discussed above, the disposal order in the above manner in respect of the 57 references shall have no legal consequences and shall not be acted upon by the Superintendent of Police (Border), Morigaon as well as by the Deputy Commissioner, Morigaon. All the 57 references shall now be treated as pending references.”
When contacted, SP, Morigaon, Swapnaneel Deka, told The Indian Express that he has not received a copy of the order yet. The 19 lakh people were excluded from the final NRC published on August 31.
The High Court ruling came on a writ petition that was registered suo motu following an e-mail dated April 23, 2018, by Mousumi Deka, Member, FT No.4, Morigaon, addressed to the Principal Secretary to the Assam government, and the state’s Home and Political Department, with a copy marked to the Registrar (Judicial), Gauhati High Court.
The email stated that 288 references were shown disposed of by the earlier Member but detailed opinions signed by the Member were not available in case records.
Referring to the earlier Member, the High Court order said: “Before parting with the record, we express our disappointment over the way the Member conducted himself. This was not expected. In the ordinary course this would have called for some action, disciplinary or otherwise. We leave it at that.”
Scrutinising the 288 cases, the High Court order stated that according to a report by the Deputy Secretary to the Assam government and its Home and Political Department, “anomalies were detected” in 57 cases.
The High Court order listed out the causes:
-In 11 cases, judgments were not found on record.
-In six cases, there is a mismatch between the judgment copies and order sheets. In three of these, the report said: “Proceedees are declared Indian in note sheet, but in opinion declared as foreigner.”
-In five cases, the report found dual judgments.
-The report found that in 32 cases, the persons were declared “foreigners” ex-parte but then declared Indians consequently without vacating the earlier order.
-In two cases, inconsistencies and discrepancies in names were detected.
-One case was left undisposed since the suspected “foreigner” had expired.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Aman Wadud, a lawyer who has represented several suspected “foreigners” at FTs and the Gauhati High Court, said: “This raises serious questions on the competency of FT members. They don’t get any formal training before deciding the fate of people and their generations to come. They just get a few days of orientation. India has many brilliant judicial academies, what is stopping the government from training them there?”
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