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Report No. 175

11. Parliamentary standing committee on Foreigners (Amendment) Bill.

The Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Ministry of Home Affairs for critical analysis and suggestions. The Committee discussed the Bill at length on 10th September 1998 in the context of the existing problem of illegal migration into border areas.

11.1 Official presentation at the standing committee

(i) The official side highlighted the problem of illegal migration from neighbouring countries especially from Bangladesh (other countries being Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Tibet) and the presence of militants and other criminal elements carrying on clandestine activities. The officers explained the framework of the existing Foreigners Act, 1946, previous amendments and pitfalls of the Act, namely, the lack of proper machinery for identification of illegal migrants, non-existence of classification of offences and offences being bailable.

(ii) The officers then dealt with the main features of the Amendment Bill which attempted a classification of offences as also prescribed a minimum and enhanced maximum punishment in certain cases thereby enabling the trial of serious offences by courts of session and rendering it imperative for the courts to issue notice to the prosecution in case there was a move for granting bail. In support, they cited the example of Pakistan where an illegal entrant was not granted bail till the trial was over. In their opinion, those who posed a potential threat to the security of the country should be severely dealt with. In their view, the proposed amendments in the law, would make it more effective and deterrent.

11.2 Discussion on the Bill in the standing committee

(i) There was unanimity among the members on the gravity of the problem posed by illegal migration to India. They were also unanimous on the fact that the existing law was quite inadequate to tackle the problem; that even the proposed amendment might not be sufficient, though desirable, to strengthen the parent legislation and that a more stringent legislation was needed to curb the menace which had become, over the years, an all India feature. There was a specific suggestion for enacting a comprehensive legislation on this subject.

(ii) The members, however, felt that the law alone could, in no way, check the illegal infiltration but other measures like complete border fencing and strict vigil had to be strengthened. Some of the members felt that, in addition to this, identity cards had to be issued to citizens so as to easily identify non-citizens especially in View of ethnic and religious similarities which had made their identification difficult. This would greatly help solve the problem of illegal migration. However, one member suggested the creation of Indian National Security and Foreign National Detection Force to identify and sternly deal with the illegal foreign elements.

(iii) some of the members suggested specific measures to strengthen the legal regime, for example, the terms "foreigner" and "citizen" should be precisely defined; summary trial through a reasonable, fair and efficient procedure should be provided wherein the burden of proof would lie on the accused; special courts to try offences under the Act should be established; and that all the offences should be made non-bailable under the Act. One member expressed the View that there should be no denial of bail but special courts may be given discretion to grant it in appropriate cases. They also pleaded for repeal of the IMDT Act.

(iv) Members also suggested harmonisation between the Passports Act and the Foreigners Act. Both the suggestions were picked up by the Home Secretary who agreed that there was a need to have a ho1ist1c view of the Foreigners Act in re1ation to the Citizenship Act and Passports Act and for the enactment of a comprehensive 1egis1ation.

11.3 The Committee cou1d not take up the Bill for further consideration and formu1ate its recommendations as it become defunct on 26th April, 1999 on account of the dissc1ution of 12th Lok Sabha.

11.4 The new Committee after its constitution on 31st December, 1999 took up further consideration of the Bill on 7th February, 2000. The fo11owing views/suggestion emerged during the course of the meeting. (See pages 21-31 of the Report):-

(i) The proposed amendment to Section 14 of the Act is not sufficient to achive the object.

(ii) Accused shou1d not be granted bai1 ti11 the tria1 is over

(iii) Time frame shou1d be prescribed for the tria1 of offences

(iv) Burden of proof shall lie on the accussed for all kinds of violations/contraventions including rules and orders of the act by amending Section 9 of the Act.

(v) Offences under the act should be tried by specia1 courts manned by the Judges of the rank of sessions court

(vi) The court should be empowered to order deportation of convicted foreigner while announcing punishment for him.

The Foreigners (Amendment) Bill, 2000 Back

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