In a distressing development throwing light at the casual manner of functioning of Foreigners Tribunals in Assam, the Guahati High Court set aside 57 orders passed by a Foreigners Tribunal in Morigaon district in Assam for glaring procedural irregularities.
In a suo moto proceedings initiated by the Gauhati High Court, it noted that judgments were not found in several references which were marked as 'disposed' by the Tribunal.
The bench comprising Justice Manojit Bhuyan and Justice Kalyan Rai Surana said,
"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."
The proceedings were initiated by the High Court on the basis of an e-mail from the Member In-charge of the Foreigners' Tribunal, Morigaon, informing that 288 references were shown disposed of by the earlier Member but detailed opinions signed by the Member were not available in the case records.
On receipt of this information, the HC issued a notice to the Principal Secretary, Home and Political (B) Department, Government of Assam, with directions to seize the case records of those 288 references and to place those records before the Court along with a detailed report compiled in that regard.
Pursuant to the direction, the Deputy Secretary of the Department submitted that the total number of cases seized was 282 and not 288 as because 6 nos. of cases had been mentioned twice. As per his report:
57 of the said 282 cases were anomalous as follows:
Concerned by the aforementioned anomalies and recklessness, the bench held that the orders of disposal in all these 57 cases were "non est in the eye of law" and thus liable to be set aside. The bench said,
"Mere noting in the note-sheet or passing of an order that reference was disposed of without a reasoned opinion/absence of judgment copy/dual judgment/without vacating earlier order in the case file would be no order in the eye of law. Such a noting or order cannot be construed to be an order disposing of a reference case by a Foreigners Tribunal. There has to be an opinion on record which must carry the seal and signature of the Presiding Officer of the Tribunal. In the absence thereof, such a reference will have to be treated as not being disposed of and be considered as a pending reference, which would have to be heard afresh."
Accordingly, the said 57 references shall 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 bench said.
This order assumes a lot of relevance in the backdrop of reports that Foreigners Tribunals are competing to score the highest rate of disposal.
Foreigners Tribunals have the power to declare a person as 'foreigner'. Upon such declaration, the person will be send to detention centres, pending deportation.
These Tribunals will deal with the appeals of 19 lakh persons excluded from the National Register of Citizens, which was published on August 31.
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