Supreme Court upbraids Assam government, Centre for not furnishing information on detention centres

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Supreme Court came down heavily on the Centre and the Assam government for failing to furnish information about the number of persons, identified as illegal migrants, who were confined at detention centres pending deportation.

The court directed the Assam Chief Secretary to file an affidavit by March 26, 2019, about the total number of illegal immigrants, their numbers in the detention centers and those who had already been deported from the state.

“This has gone too far and has become a joke. You have not done anything,” the irate three-judge bench, comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said during a hearing on the issue on 13 March, 2019.



While questioning the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta about the whereabouts of the foreigners in the state, the court sought information about the functioning of the Foreigners Tribunals in Assam and the steps taken by the state’s law and order machinery to implement the Tribunal’s orders.

The Court is hearing a petition filed by human rights activist and lawyer Harsh Mander about the depressing living conditions in the illegal immigrants’ detention centres in Assam.


Illegal immigrants’ detention centres


In Sarbananda Sonowal v Union of India, (2005) 5 SCC 665, the court said, “large-scale illegal migration of Bangladeshi nationals” had led to “external aggression and internal disturbance”. In light of this, the court concluded, the State of Assam was duty-bound to take all measure to protect itself from external aggression and internal disturbance as enjoined in Article 355 of the Constitution. Recalling this judgment, the Court asked the Solicitor General what the Central and the state government had done to meet this threat of external aggression.

 “How seriously Assam in considering this matter is quite evident from the absence of any officer to brief you in the matter,” the court told Tushar Mehta, while pointing out that the concerned officer from the Assam government had not even bothered to come to Delhi to assist the Solicitor General.



The court pointed out that though the Foreigners’ Tribunals had identified more than 58,000 illegal immigrants as foreigners in the last 10 years, only 900 of these immigrants were housed in the six detention centres in the state. The court also observed that more detainees continue to be lodged inside these centres even after the expiry of their term of imprisonment for illegally entering the country.

During the arguments, at one point, CJI Gogoi referred to the issue raised in the petition about the lack of basic facilities for the 900 detainees at the centre and asked, “You (government of Assam) are unable to deal with the base problem of 900 illegal migrants. How will you deal with over 58,000 of them?”


Affidavit on March 26


Further, the court has asked the Assam government to inform them about the (i) number of persons declared foreigners by the special Tribunals, (ii) number of persons detained at the detention centers, (iii) number of persons sent back to the country of origin, (iv) the numbers of foreign tribunals in the state which are considered to be adequate, and (v) precise number of additional tribunals required immediately or in the near future.

The Leaflet