[dropcap]A[/dropcap] group of eminent citizens today expressed disappointment at the recent reported statements by the Chief Justice of India advocating greater detention of suspected “foreigners” in Assam.
“While advocating greater detention of suspected ‘foreigners’, the Chief Justice brushed aside the Assam Chief Secretary with a stinging admonition for proposing a methodology for the release of a handful of foreign prisoners who had been in detention beyond their term of sentence for illegal entry.
“This was especially of concern for the case concerned the wilful violation of the human rights of hundreds of detainees who were languishing in what the court itself accepts are “inhuman conditions. We regard these remarks as unfortunate,” the statement released through the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) said.
The statement has been signed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan Lokur, CHRI’s Chair and former Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice AP Shah and several former government officials and civil society leaders.
“We cannot place ourselves in a situation where we are seen as forcing people out at gunpoint; it would be ethically unjust, wrong in law and draw international condemnation, the group said, pointing to the fact that Bangladesh, with who there is no deportation agreement, had consistently refused to accept that its citizens had migrated in large numbers to India.
“As concerned citizens, we look to the Supreme Court to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on sensitive issues, the statement said, while reminding the Supreme Court of its need to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on complex issues of nationality, detention and deportation and not be unmindful of its own commitment to these duties.
Describing situation in the north-eastern state as a “tragedy of growing intensity … as a result of the current National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise,” the statement said “Article 21 is very clear in its intent, ambit and process. It binds all duty-holders and citizens with the ringing affirmation that no person in India (and we emphasise that there no special privileges here for Indian citizens) can be deprived of their right to life and liberty without due process”.
“As concerned citizens, we appeal to the judicial system and the government to explore a solution that addresses the human dimension. The situation in Assam and inter alia other parts of the North-east represent unprecedented challenges and conditions that cannot be resolved by application of a routine legal framework which is designed to deal with individual cases,” the statement said.