Foreigners Act, 1946

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

The Act characterizes a Foreigner as “an individual who isn’t a resident of India” and this Act grants certain powers to the interim Government of India in the matters of Foreigners. This act is of the time of imperial legislative assembly that is the legislature for British India. The Foreigners Act deals with all the Foreigners be it refugees or any illegal immigrant. It is also additionally convenient to accommodate the activity by the Central Government of specific powers in regard of the entry and departure of Foreigners from India.

  • Foreign Tribunals

Foreigners ‘Tribunals are semi legal bodies set up according to the Foreigners’ Tribunal Order, 1964 and the Foreigners ‘ Act, 1946. It is for the individuals who have been forgotten about in the final NRC list or have been set apart as ‘D’ signifying ‘doubtful’. The ones falling under this classification reserve the privilege to approach the Foreigners Tribunals, Only Foreign Tribunals reserve the privilege to proclaim an individual as an Foreigner. However, if pronounced a foreigner or set under the doubtful classification ‘the burden of proof lies with the foreigner’.

The Foreign Tribunal order was amended by the ministry of home affairs stating that all the states and union territories to set up Tribunals

  • Powers of Tribunals

In The Foreigners’ Tribunal Order, 1964 the forces of the Tribunals have been set down:-

  1. The Tribunal will have the forces of a Civil Court while trying a suit under The CPC, 1908.
  2. The Court can summon and request the attendance of any individual and examine him/her on oath.
  3. The Tribunal can request anyone to produce the necessary documents.
  4. The Tribunal can commission examining any witness, as and when required.

Salient features

  1. The Act characterizes the Foreigner as an individual who isn’t a resident of India.
  2. Section 9 of this Act defines that, where the nationality of an individual is not evident as per preceding section 8, the onus of proving whether an individual is a foreigner or not, shall lie upon such individual
  3. The Foreigner act, 1946 provides the Government of India some powers which they can use to regulate the entry and exit foreigners.
  4. The Foreigner Order under the Foreigners act, 1946 also provide for setting up of Tribunals for the purpose of solving problems related to Foreigners.
  5. It is also provides a duty of an individual to inform the nearest police station within 24 hours, about the information that he has about a foreigner, who has entered India without substantial documents or is staying for a period more than authorized as stated in the Foreigners order 2001 made under the Foreigners Act 1946.

Why was it introduced?

The Foreigners Act came even before India got Independence that is the year 1946. So, The Foreigners Act was basically Introduced so that the Government of India can put a check and control over the entry and exit of foreigners. If, such Foreigner who has entered in India without substantial documents, illegally or staying for more than authorized period, than the Central Government may make Provisions in regard of departure, presence or continued presence of all Foreigners and Govt. of India can also detain such Foreigner till he or she is sent back to its country. Therefore, to protect the territory of India from any illegal immigrant or any refugee.

Relevance in current times

Recently as it is seen that The Government has given the final list of NRC (National Register of Citizens). This list Identifies every person who came from outside the territory of India who is considered as a Refugee like foreigners as they are not a citizens of India. In this current situation of coronavirus, the Foreigners who are stuck in India due to this pandemic are being managed under the Foreigners act. The government of India is looking up on them and are not allowing them to go out of the country as it is not appropriate at this point of time. So, here the Indian government is exercising its powers to manage the Foreigners or refugees from any country under this act.

The foreigners (amendment) order of 2015 mentioned that the Foreigners act 1946 will not apply to those non Muslim refugees who have entered India from Bangladesh and Pakistan prior to 31st December 2014 just to prevent their harassment and deterioration. Thought it was challenged in the supreme court and it is still pending.

Critical analysis

India, a nation that has offered shelter to a lot many refugees/Foreigner and has consistently invited one and all. Such a nation is home to one of the biggest refugee/Foreigner populations in the world. Mass human rights, civil wars, inward strike, communal brutality and natural disasters lead to the making of refugees.

Since, the present refugee issue is worldwide in nature and concerns people in their relations with states as well as states in their relations with each other. Hence, there is a need of Law related to not only the legal status but also for the protection of refugees and a solution to all the refugee problem. Therefore, The Foreigners Act was enacted to penalize the entrance and departure of foreigners.


The conclusion that can be drawn is that The Foreigners Act is beneficial and is of great importance as seen. The Foreigners Act, 1946 provides the government with the power to manage or to regulate the activities like stay and departure of the foreigners/refugees. It protects the citizens of India and also helps to control the population by recognizing the citizens and all the refugees or illegal immigrants. The refugees or illegal immigrants are treated as foreigners and are dealt with the provisions under the foreigners act. The government of India acts within its powers and control the expulsion or deterioration of such foreigners who are staying in India without substantial documents.

Now, also considering the fact that The Foreigners Act lacks substantial laws for the refugees. Refugees come to India in search of food, shelter, and for the protection of their lives. So, to protect the interest of the refugees it is the duty of government of India to take necessary measures. It can be said that the foreigners act can be amended with some provisions for the safety of such refugees/foreigners.

Author: Bakul from Delhi Metropolitan Education, GGSIPU.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

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