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IMDT Act is the biggest barrier to deportation, says Supreme Court

Legal Correspondent

Describes the influx of illegal immigrants as an aggression on Assam

  • Large-scale immigration has led to insurgency and social disturbances
  • Local language and culture being affected
  • Growth of Assam hampered by migrants

    RALLYING AGAINST ILLEGAL MIGRANTS: BJP supporters take out a rally in Guwahati on Wednesday demanding the deportation of all illegal Bangladeshi nationalists from Assam after the Supreme Court struck down the IMDT Act. - PHOTO: RITU RAJ KONWAR

    NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court held that the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983 and rules "has created the biggest hurdle and is the main impediment or barrier in the identification and deportation of illegal migrants."

    A three-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, Justice G.P. Mathur and Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan, which, on Tuesday, struck down the IMDT Act as unconstitutional, observed: "The presence of such a large number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, which runs into millions, is in fact an aggression on the State of Assam and has also contributed significantly in causing serious internal disturbances in the shape of insurgency of alarming proportions."

    The court, in its 114-page judgment, noted that this "aggression" had made the life of the people of Assam "wholly insecure and the panic generated thereby had created fear psychosis." The Bench said this hampered the growth of Assam though it had vast natural resources. The rest of the country viewed it as a disturbed area and hence there were no investments or employment opportunities, giving rise to insurgency.

    Justice Mathur, writing the judgment for the Bench, pointed out that the IMDT Act and Rules had been so made that innumerable and insurmountable difficulties were created in identification and deportation of illegal migrants. The Bench noted that though enquiries were initiated in 3,10,759 cases under the IMDT Act, only 10,015 persons were declared illegal migrants and only 1,481 illegal migrants were physically expelled up to April 30, 2000.

    This, the Bench said, "comes to less than half per cent of the cases initiated." On the contrary in West Bengal, where Foreigners Act was applicable, 4,89,046 persons were deported between 1983 and November 1998, which was a lesser period. Thus the IMDT Act "is coming to the advantage of such illegal migrants as any proceedings initiated against them almost entirely ends in their favour, enables them to have a document having official sanctity to the effect that they are not illegal migrants."

    The Bench said "the IMDT Act and the Rules clearly negate the constitutional mandate contained in Article 355 of the Constitution, where a duty has been cast upon the Union of India to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance. The IMDT Act, which contravenes Article 355 of the Constitution is, therefore, wholly unconstitutional and must be struck down."

    The judges said the impact of such large-scale illegal migrants not only affected Assam but also other north-eastern States as the route to these places passed through Assam. The Bench said the influx of Bangladeshi nationals into Assam posed a threat to the integrity and security of the north-eastern region.

    Their presence had changed the demographic character of the region and the local people of Assam had been reduced to a status of minority in certain districts. The judges said the enforcement of the IMDT Act had helped the illegal migrants to stay in Assam. The illegal migrants had affected the language, script and culture of the local people. The Bench directed constitution of fresh tribunals under the Foreigner (Tribunals) Order, 1964.

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