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Assam must identify illegal nationals: SC

Friday, 18 January 2013 - 9:24am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Court asks the state to set up 64 more tribunals to fast-track deportation process.

The Centre and Assam government have been directed to decide whether 3,14,426 suspected Bangladeshi nationals, belong to India. If not, then they should be deported within two months of their detection by the foreigners’ tribunals.

While there are 2,37,631 registered suspected Bangaldeshi nationals, more than 76,000 others are awaiting proceedings by the foreign nationals detection tribunals in Assam.

In a detailed judgment, a full bench of the Gauhati High Court last week held that  speedy trial, a fundamental right which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution, must be extended to the suspects who have been facing the proceedings between five and 20 years.

“While there can be no denying the fact that in the name of detection and deportation of foreigners, Indian citizens should not be harassed, it is equally true that the reference proceedings must also be disposed of at the earliest so that foreigners can be deported from India immediately, as otherwise it would be against national interest,” the court observed.

The persons, against whom proceedings have been initiated, are also entitled to speedy trial and early disposal of the reference proceedings pending before the tribunal, the HC said, while disposing of a batch of lawsuits filed by some of the aggrieved suspects and the Union government that sought a review of its verdict that the prima facie onus of nationality rests with the government and its agencies.

Taking note of the long pendency of proceedings, which was largely due to the undue delay, judges have said that there’s an urgent need to set up 64 more tribunals, in addition to 36 existing quasi judicial authorities, for meeting the target laid down by the Union government in its 2012 amendment order.

On an average, a tribunal disposes of about 3,000 references in a year. But, more cases are added every year. It has been held that the object of speedy trial, as well as dispensation of quality justice, would suffer if efficient and competent persons are not appointed as members of the foreigners’ tribunals.

The HC has disapproved the state government’s procedure and selection for appointing retired judicial officers as members of the foreigners’ tribunals as many of the incumbents  are not well-versed with the law relating to the foreigners residing in India. It has directed the government to constitute adequate numbers of tribunals manned by  qualified and experienced officers, within four months, for speedy disposal of the pending proceedings.

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