GUWAHATI, Oct 7 � Though the number of Foreigners� Tribunals has been increased in the last few years, the Assam Government has totally failed to provide the basic facilities required to the tribunals to ensure speedy disposal of the cases because of which, large number of cases are pending in almost all the tribunals.
The Supreme Court, while declaring the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act as unconstitutional, in its order on July 12, 2005, said that additional Tribunals under the provisions of the Foreigners� (Tribunals) Order, 1964 should be set up. The Court further directed that all the pending cases under the IM(DT) Act should be transferred to the Foreigners� Tribunals and should be tried under the provisions of the Foreigners� Act. The State Government constituted additional Foreigners� Tribunals following the Supreme Court verdict but so far, it failed to provide the basic facilities required to ensure smooth functioning of the Tribunals.
This correspondent recently visited the building which houses the Tribunals for Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup districts and found that the Tribunals still lack the basic facilities. If such is the case with the Tribunals located in the capital city of the state, one can easily understand the condition of the Tribunals located in the remote areas of Assam.
Shortage of Judges is one of the main problems faced by the Tribunals and at one point of time, one Judge looked after both the Tribunals in the city. Even today, the existing judges are given additional responsibilities of other Tribunals, which slowed down the process of disposal of the cases. Official sources admitted that there is a shortage of judges for the Tribunals and the problem is sought to be addressed by raising the upper age limit of the Judges of the Tribunals. In fact, the problems faced by the Tribunals were highlighted in a high level meet in 2008, but the problems remain to be addressed.
At the time when the Supreme Court scrapped the IM(DT) Act, there was no IM(DT) tribunal in Guwahati and the cases of the city were tried in the Tribunals in Nalbari, Morigaon and Darrang. But the cases of the city pending in Nalbari are yet to be transferred to the Foreigners� Tribunal for Guwahati even after five years of scrapping of the IM(DT) Act.
Shortage of staff is another major hurdle faced by the Tribunals. Most of the Tribunals do not have stenographers, who play a vital role in all courts. Of course, the Tribunal for Kamrup (Metro) has a stenographer, the Tribunal for Kamrup does not have one. The post of copyist is vital for any court as certified copies of the orders are to be provided to the litigants but that post has not yet been created for the Foreigners� Tribunals.
Mostly illiterate persons have to come to the Tribunals to defend the cases against them and there are instances when those who face trial cannot afford to engage lawyers, which also slows down the process of trial. In fact, during the visit to the Tribunal, this correspondent witnessed the Judge having a tough time in questioning an illiterate person who did not know what was written in the complaint against him. Interestingly, till now Government pleaders have not been appointed for the Foreigners� Tribunals and in fact, the Tribunals sent reminders to the Government on several times without any result.
Serving notices to the suspects is another major problem faced by the Tribunals. The Tribunals send the notices to the suspects through the respective SPs of the districts and around 50 percent of the notices are returned un-served forcing the Tribunals to re-issue the same, which also slows down the process of detection of foreigners. The police often complain that they could not find the suspect to serve the notices to appear before the Tribunals, while, shortage of staff of the police also creates problems in this regard as the border police personnel are often engaged in other duties including maintenance of law and order.
Though computers have been provided to the Tribunals, no generator has been provided and during the visit to the Tribunal, this correspondent witnessed that the computers could not be used for the whole day as there was no power in the area. Interestingly, the Government provided fax machines to the Tribunals but no telephone connections are given and one fails to understand how the Government expects the Tribunals to use the fax machines without phone connections.