Supreme Court asks for information on number of detention centres in Assam and inmates lodged therein

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the founding member of Aman Biradari,  Harsh Mander, has asked for the following information pertaining to detention centres in Assam, from both the Assam Government and the Central Government:

  1. The total number of detention centres and the inmates therein;
  2. The period for which such inmates have been lodged in the detention centres;
  3. Whether all the inmates in the detention centres have been declared foreigners or such inmates include persons whose references are pending before the Foreigners Tribunal;
  4. The number of foreigners declared by the Foreigners Tribunal in the last decade; a year-wise break-up of the figure may be given.
  5. Out of the declared foreigners, in how many cases repatriation was tried and the result thereof;

The Court has asked the competent authority to make the information sought available to the Court within three weeks.

In his PIL, Mander has highlighted human rights violations of detainees held presently in six detention centres/prisons in Assam, either because they have been declared as foreigners by one of the one-hundred Foreigners Tribunals in Assam or after serving out their sentence for illegally entering India, detained pending deportation. To buttress his claim, petitioner has relied upon the findings of the deplorable conditions in Assam detention centres, prepared as a report for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) by the petitioner, as Minorities Monitor at NHRC.

The petition focuses on the appalling conditions in detention of such persons, that deprive them of their Constitutional right to life, guaranteed to all persons living in India. These persons were not served any notices by the Foreigners Tribunal and subsequent to ex-parte orders passed by the tribunals, have been arrested and detained in one of the six jails/detention centres. The petition points out the predicament of those who claim to be foreigners and are yet detained indefinitely in the absence of any clear procedure or time-line for their deportation.

Petition alleges that the authorities routinely detain people on the pretext of completing repatriation formalities by relying on certain provisions in the Foreigners Act, 1946, which for instance, enable the government to compel foreigners to ‘reside at a particular place’, with no specified time limit. Combined with the government’s inaction, this means that the majority of illegal immigrants who have served their sentences remain indefinitely imprisoned instead of being deported.


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