New Delhi [India]: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Assam government to explain indefinite detention of foreigners in detention centres in the state and to find out ways to set them free.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “You (Assam) may justify detention centre, idea was to keep them for a minimum time. They are humans.”
The bench said it will examine conditions in detention centres and the long period for which foreigners are detained in these detention centres.
“One issue highlighted (in the petition) is the poor living conditions in detention centres. You (Assam) have to ensure minimum living conditions. You cannot have inhuman conditions in detention centres,” observed the apex court.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by activist Harsh Mander seeking direction to the authorities to ensure humane treatment of those detained in the detention centres in Assam.
The top court also slammed the Assam government for not being able to act in its efforts to identify and deport illegal foreigners.
During the hearing, the apex court said the problem of illegal migrants in Assam is for last 50 years and asked why no steps were taken to deport or repatriate them.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Assam government told the bench that “illegal migrants have to go out” and he will take instruction from the government how to expedite repatriation the foreigners.
Assam government told the court that tribunal has declared 52,000 people as foreigners and government has deported 166 people.
The bench came down heavily on the government saying as many as 40 lakh people were not included in Assam National Register for Citizens (NRC) means they were prime facie foreigners, but tribunals declared only 52,000 as foreign and of this, the government has deported only 166.
“How can people have confidence in Assam government? You are creating confusion,” the bench added.
Mehta, however, said that all those 40 lakh people left out of the NRC in Assam can’t be termed as illegal immigrants.
Mehta also informed the apex court that forces have pushed back over 27,000 foreigners at border points who were attempting to enter India illegally.
The central government has allotted Rs 47 crores and Assam has provided land for constructing a new detention centre, which will be ready by August 31, with facilities that will adequately address grievances on rights violations, Mehta apprised the bench.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Mander told the bench that detention of foreigners has gone up to 8-9 years and many persons have completed their detention but still lodged in the detention centre.
“Government can’t detain them. Only 166 were deported. Government is not been able to come into the agreement with other nation to take these people back,” Bhushan added.