27 May 2001
The Times of India
NRI in house? Tell cops, or go to jail
By Siddharth Varadarajan
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI: If your NRI relatives are foreign citizens and you fail to inform the police about their presence when they stay at your house, you could well be imprisoned for five years. So could businessmen who meet with foreign counterparts on their own premises without reporting the matter to the local thana.
Even as India prides itself on being an open, liberal and democratic society, an anachronistic law is being revived which will turn tens of thousands of citizens into criminals for allowing foreigners into their homes and offices without informing the authorities.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) ran a small advertisement in some local dailies with the ominous title, `Intimation Regarding Presence of Foreigners'.
It read: ``This is for the information of General Public that as per the Foreigners (Report to Police) Order, 1971, made under the Foreigners Act, 1946, every householder or other person shall report to the officer-in-charge of the nearest police station the arrival or presence in his household or in any premises occupied by him or under his control of any foreigner, if he knows or has reasons to believe that he is a foreigner. Non-compliance of this order would attract
punitive action under the Foreigners Act, 1946, i.e. imprisonment up to a period of five years or with fine or both''.
This 1971 order is being ``reiterated in order to inform people that its enforcement will be more stringent with a view to curbing overstaying and illegal immigration'', home ministry spokesman PD Shenoy told The Times of India. ``We have to be able to act against visitors from certain countries inimical to our national interests'', he added.
However, neither Shenoy nor Pravin Srivastava, joint secretary in the MHA's foreigners division, was able to explain why such a catch-all order was necessary when under existing rules, visitors from specific countries - such as Pakistan and Bangladesh - must report to local police stations.
When TOI faxed Srivastava pointing out that the 1971 order criminalises familial and professional relationships between Indians and foreigners and doesn't even specify how long a foreigner must stay at a given location before the police must be informed, the MHA scrambled to cover its flanks.
Shenoy later offered the following clarification: ``Casual visits by foreigners to someone's home or office need not be reported. A cup of tea, meals, business meeting, even a day-long visit is fine. But if an overnight stay is involved, the police must be told'', he said.
Shenoy said the MHA would issue a press note clarifying the order. When asked, he said the formal 1971 order would also be suitably modified. However, these modifications will not take the sting out of an order that is illiberal and easy to abuse. An NRI with a foreign passport who stays in the homes of several relatives would run the risk of sending them to jail if the police were not informed each night. The Indian friends of an American professor would now have to think twice if their guest wants to stay the night after a late dinner. ``All in all'', said G Parthasarathy, former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, ``this order is an absurd and
unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of Indian citizens''.
Foreigners' law in national interest: Ministry
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI: Reacting to criticism of the controversial Foreigners (Report
to Police) Order, 1971, the Union home ministry said on Friday that the
rule is being enforced "in the interest of national security".
The order, made public through newspaper advertisements earlier in the
week, makes it mandatory for individuals, families, hotels and guest
houses hosting foreign citizens for more than 24 hours to inform police
about the guests.
The ministry spokesperson said that while the law would not be applicable
to Non-Resident Indians who still hold Indian passports, NRIs who have
foreign passports would come under its ambit.
"It is to deter the illegal entry of foreigners into the country. There
has been an influx of a large number of foreigners into the country -
particularly from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan - over the last
few years. Many of them have overstayed, burdening the economy. Some of
them have been indulging in subversive activities too," the official said.
Asked about the immediate provocation for the order, the spokesperson
merely said, "such orders are issued from time to time" to bring it to the
notice of public at large and "to ensure that security agencies are alert
"As a host, one would not have to physically present oneself at a police
station. Information could be registered over a telephone," the official
4 September 2001
The Times of India
Govt modifies order on foreigners
Times New Network
New Delhi: The Union home ministry has reviewed the controversial Foreigners (Report to Police) Order, 1971, and decided there is no legal obligation for citizens to inform the police, whenever foreigners visit or stay in their homes.
The home ministry's determination to enforce the 1971 order first reported in the Times of India two months ago had evoked widespread criticism from NRIs and others concerned about infringement of civil liberties. the ministry of external affairs had also expressed unhappiness at the revival of what, it felt, was an anachronistic order.
``Following protests in the media, the home ministry reconsidered the order and recently renotified the amended order,'' special secretary and home ministry spokesman P D Shenoy said here on Tuesday. ``Under the new order, citizens are not expected to inform the police if they have a foreign guest staying overnight at their residence. however, if somebody does not have a valid travel document or has overstayed in the country - in other words, is an illegal entrant - then the host must inform the police.''
In the immediate aftermath of this paper's report, ministry officials had said it would be amended to apply only to visitors from Pakistan and Bangladesh. but critics had said that even this amounted to an unfair burden on the Indian hosts.