[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Supreme Court has expressed displeasure that only 900 people had been lodged in detention centres in Assam even though over 100,000 persons had been declared as foreigners by the authorities in the state.
The Court was responding to an affidavit filed by the state Chief Secretary Alok Kumar in a public interest petition on the deteriorating conditions of the detention centres in Assam where illegal immigrants who were declared foreigners by the Foreigners’ Tribunals are being kept. Chief Secretary Kumar had suggested in his affidavit that the detainees be released on the execution of a bond.
“You (Government of Assam) have failed to catch illegal migrants in the state as more than one lakh foreigners are living in the State, but the government has managed to detain only over 900 of them”, the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi said on Thursday, April 25, 2019, on behalf of the three-judge bench that also included Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. They also expressed dissatisfaction that only four persons had been deported so far.
Appearing for the state government, the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta said that after holding consultation with the Central Government, the Assam government had decided that those illegal immigrants who had spent more than five years in detention centres could be released on executing a bond and on condition that they would report to the police every week.
“You are the government, but you are not following the Constitution and you except the court to pass illegal order to allow such people to live in the country who are otherwise not entitled,” the court said in response.
“The stand of the Government of India and the State of Assam should be that foreigners detenues should be deported as soon as possible. But we do not see that stand, Mr Chief Secretary,” Chief Justice of India added.
40 lakh people excluded, 1000 tribunals needed to hear appeals, says Chief Secretary
On April 08, 2019, the Chief Secretary of the state, Alok Kumar informed the Court that the National Register of Citizen (NRC) for the state of Assam will be published on July 31, 2019.
He also informed the Court that 1000 tribunals would be required to deal with the flood of those not found in the NRC, for which 1000 judges would need to be hired and a budget of Rs 900 crore allocated for the exercise.
He admitted that the Assam Government’s performance in the last five years to detect and deport illegal foreigners had been poor and that the performance of the task force to detect them had also not been satisfactory.
A three-judge bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna had on April 1, 2019, summoned Alok Kumar to appear before them on April 8, 2019, after stopping short of issuing a non-bailable warrant of arrest for failing to appear before them in earlier hearings.
Background of the Case
The Court was hearing a public interest petition filed by social activist Harsh Mander, through advocate Prashant Bhushan, on the deteriorating conditions of the detention centres in Assam where illegal immigrants who were declared foreigners by the Foreigners’ Tribunals were kept.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi had on April 1, 2019, expressed displeasure at the inability of the state government to give a clear number of undeclared illegal foreigners in the state, illegal immigrants identified by the Government, cases referred to the foreigners’ tribunals, and the details of the illegal immigrants who had melded with the local population and had not been traced by the officers.
The Bench had referred to the figures provided by the state government that about 91,609 people had been declared illegal by the tribunals. Out of them, 72,486 were absconding and around 900 persons were kept in detention centres presently. The Court had also noticed that many detainees continued to be lodged at the detention centres even after the expiry of their term of imprisonment for illegally entering the country.
The matter is now listed on May 02, 2019.