The Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday clarified that the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, is applicable to the whole country and is not specific to any state, reported PTI. The Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, was issued by the central government under Section 3 of The Foreigners Act, 1946.

The ministry also clarified that the amendment to the order in May was meant to lay down the modalities for the foreigners’ tribunals to decide on appeals made by people not satisfied with the outcome of claims and objections filed against the National Register of Citizens. “As NRC work is going on only in Assam, therefore, the amendment order, issued on May 30, 2019, is applicable only to Assam as on date for all practical purposes,” said the ministry.

The ministry said the May order also mandated the foreigners’ tribunals in Assam to deliver verdict of such cases within four months. “This amendment order also provides for reference by District Magistrate to the tribunal for its opinion as to whether the Appellant is a “foreigner” or not within the meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946,” said the ministry.

The stated aim of the NRC is to separate genuine Indian citizens from undocumented immigrants living in Assam. According to the terms, anyone who cannot prove that they or their ancestors entered the state before midnight on March 24, 1971, will be declared a foreigner. More than 40 lakh people were excluded from the final draft of the NRC published on July 30, 2018. The final NRC list will be released on July 31.

In March, the Supreme Court pulled up the Assam government for the inadequate functioning of foreigners’ tribunals and said it was not taking deportation of undocumented migrants seriously. The following month, the court asked the state government how it planned to release foreigners held in the state’s detention centres for allegedly entering the state illegally.

On May 30, the Supreme Court asked National Register of Citizens Coordinator Prateek Hajela to be accurate and give a fair hearing to objections raised by people whose names are missing from the list. The court said officers involved in verifying documents should be just and not “cut short fair hearing”.