News

‘D’ (DOUBTFUL) VOTERS

Related Topics: Right to Vote, NRC, Foreigners Tribunal

 

Context

With barely 10 days left for the publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Election Commission (EC) is now faced with the legal question whether those excluded should be marked as ‘D’ (Doubtful) voters.

 

Who are ‘D’ voters?

  • ‘D’ voters are a category of voters in Assam whose citizenship is doubtful or under dispute.
  • The system of ‘D’ voters was introduced in 1997 by the Election Commission which prepared a list of people who could not provide evidence in favour of their Indian nationality.

 

Voting Rights

  • While ‘D’ voters continue to remain on Assam’s electoral roll, they cannot vote in an election unless their case is decided by a Foreigners’ Tribunal.
  • Around 1.2 lakh ‘D’ voters did not participate in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.
  • However, those excluded from the draft NRC were allowed to vote.

 

Who is a declared foreigner?

  • D-voters are tried by special tribunals under the Foreigners’ Act and if they fail to defend their citizenship claim, they are marked as declared foreigners and sent to any of six detention camps, which are within jails for criminals, for deportation.
  • There were 91,206 declared foreigners as on December 31, 2017.

 

What is Foreigners Tribunal?

  • They are quasi-judicial bodies meant to “furnish opinion on the question as to whether a person is or is not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • If a person doesn’t find his or her name in the final NRC, he/she could move the Tribunal.
  • The MHA has recently amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up foreigners tribunals.
  • Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.

 

[Sources: The Hindu, Indian Express]

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