Take immediate steps to ensure decent working conditions in Foreigners Tribunals: Gauhati High Court
The Gauhati High Court recently directed Deputy Commissioners in Assam to take immediate steps to ensure that decent working conditions are maintained in the Foreigners' Tribunals (FTs) across the State. (XXX XXX XXX v. In Re. Government of Assam and Others)
The order was passed in a case registered to monitor the functioning of the Foreigners Tribunals. The Court was informed by Amicus Curiae HK Das that the working conditions and the atmosphere in FTs remains a matter of concern.
Many FT Members are required to hear cases and pass orders by sitting on a sofa, since even basic amenities such as a chair and a table are not available.
Expressing concern over such a state of affairs, Justice Suman Shyam has ordered:
"The Deputy Commissioners of all the districts take immediate steps to ensure that the minimum infrastructural facilities, so as to ensure a decent working condition in the Foreigner’s Tribunal across the State wherever necessary, is put in place without further delay."
The Court acknowledged that upgrading the infrastructure in the Tribunals may take some more time due to operational reasons.
All the same, the Court made it clear that the "report regarding the fact that the Tribunal Members are presently being made to function even without a proper sitting arrangement is wholly unacceptable to this Court."
The Court further emphasised that it is the responsibility of the State Government to make available basic facilities in the Tribunals.
"If the learned Members of the FTs are discharging their duties on regular basis, then it would be the responsibility of the State Government to make available to them, the minimum infrastructural facilities so as to ensure that they can function in a manner that is befitting the office held by them", the Court said.
The Court on September 30 also took on record the submission by Advocate SC Keyal, Standing Counsel for the FTs in Assam that a notification for constitution of a three-member Committee as well as the guidelines for dealing the complaints against FT members has already been issued by the government.
However, he added that there was still some uncertainty in the functioning of those FTs since the approval of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for the extension of service of 200 additional FT Members was still awaited.
ASG RK Deb Choudhury, appearing for the Central government, told the Court that the MHA is processing the files for extension of service of the 200 additional members and that necessary approval is expected within a short time.
On perusing the Centre's written instructions in the matter, the Court noted that due to non-finalization of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and consequent non-issuance of the NRC rejection slips, the purpose for which the additional 200 Members of the FTs were recruited remained unfulfilled and they were not assigned any regular work for a long time.
Advocate Keyal told the Court that it was uncertain whether these additional members would continue in office as the State cannot extend their service without the MHA's approval.
The Amicus Curiae submitted that the members of the FTs have received their salary. This apart, concerns were flagged about the working conditions in FTs, in response to which the Court has called for remedial measures.
The Court has also directed the Secretary to the government of Assam, Home and Political Department, to take necessary follow-up steps for ensuring the compliance of the order.
The matter has been adjourned till October 28.
Advocate General D Saikia appeared for the Assam government, whereas Standing Counsel R Borpujari appeared for the Finance Department, Assam.