New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on the question whether the decision of the Foreigners Tribunal in Assam declaring a person a foreigner is final or there should be an appellate mechanism to challenge it.
The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna reserved the order as senior counsel Kapil Sibal urged the court to take recourse to its plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to provide for appeal against the tribunal’s orders.
CJI Gogoi said: “The remedy you are seeking from the court was in fact available with the legislature.”
The court is examining whether the decision of the foreigners tribunal holding a person as a foreigner would eclipse his name in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam with the government asserting that judicial determination would erase the name of such a person from the NRC.
Addressing the larger issue, Sibal said that there should be a right to appeal against the decision of the tribunal in conformity with Article 21 (Right to life) and Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution, but at this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that there was an elaborate procedure that is followed by the tribunal before it decides on the fate of a person said to be a foreigner.
Sibal also told that most of the people facing proceedings before the foreigners tribunal were poor and can’t be expected to collect all the documents in their support in 60 days.
Responding to the poser from the court in the last hearing of the matter on March 27, Sibal said that an appeal provision was incorporated but it was struck down by the top court.
“We gave the right to appeal but the court struck it down saying since the burden of proof has shifted from the immigrant to the State, an elaborate procedure has been put in place and it was limited to Assam only,” he said.
Sibal also noted that it was on the court’s intervention that a provision for appeal was incorporated in the now-scrapped TADA law.
Another senior counsel Sanjay Hegde told the court that the foreigners tribunal was a quasi-judicial body and the decision rendeed by it would remain a quasi-judicial decision even if it is upheld by the High Court or the Supreme Court.