National Register of Citizens Current Affairs - 2019

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SC Verdict: Foreigners Tribunal decision will prevail over NRC

The Supreme Court of India has held that a Foreigner Tribunal’s order declaring a person as an illegal foreigner will be binding and will prevail over government decision to include or exclude name from National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

Key Highlights

  • Argument: The SC bench constituted of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and SC Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna unanimously distinguished between decisions of NRC) and of foreigners tribunals and upheld that the tribunal’s order being the quasi-judicial one will prevail.
  • Verdict: As per SC the persons whose names are not included in NRC in Assam can produce documents including ones related to their family tree and thus seek review of tribunal’s decision. As per SC it cannot create an appellate forum for those, declared as illegal foreigners by the foreigners tribunal, by using its power under Article 142 of Indian Constitution.
  • Outcome: If the name of a person, included in NRC in Assam is deleted on ground that he was a foreigner, then principle of ‘res-judicata’ (a judicially decided issue cannot be re-agitated) would apply on decision taken by foreigners tribunal. Thus a person who has been declared an illegal immigrant cannot seek re-decision (right of appeal) against exclusion or dropping of his name in normal circumstances.

About Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964

  • The order was passed by Government of India (GoI) under section 3 of foreigners Act, 1946.
  • The GoI can constitute foreigners tribunals whenever required to look into question of whether a person is or not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigners Tribunals act, 1946.
  • The Foreigners tribunal shall consist of persons having judicial experience as government may think fit to appoint.
  • It has powers of a civil court while trying a suit under code of civil procedure, 1908. It includes summoning any person, requiring any document and issuing commissions for examination of any witness.

Assam Government extends AFSPA in the state for 6 more months

Governor of Assam has extended application of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in the entire state for six more months with immediate effect. For this, it used powers conferred under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 declaring entire state as ‘Disturbed Area’ upto 6 months or unless withdrawn earlier.

Reason for extension

This decision was taken as precautionary measure to maintain law and order during ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process during the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process. The final draft NRC is likely to be published by end of 2018. In September 2017, Union Home Ministry had delegated to Assam and Manipur Governors power to impose or withdraw AFSPA.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)

AFSPA was enacted in 1958 to bring ‘disturbed’ areas declared under it under control. It empowers both state and central government to declare areas as ‘disturbed’ due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.

Declaration of Disturbed area: The section (3) of the Act empowers governor of State/UT to issue an official notification in Gazette of India, following which Centre has authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid. Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months.

Special powers to armed forces: The Act gives special powers to army and state and central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property used by insurgents in disturbed areas. It also provides army personnel with safeguards against malicious, vindictive and frivolous prosecution.

Note: At present, the AFSA has been enforced in 6 states viz. Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh (only the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts plus 20-km belt bordering Assam), Manipur (except Imphal municipal area), Meghalaya (confined to  20-km belt bordering Assam) and Jammu and Kashmir.