NEW DELHI, March 26 - An NGO Justice and Liberty and Initiative has filed an application in the Supreme Court, seeking the release of declared foreigners from the detention centres in Assam subject to compliance of condition specified by the apex court.
The application filed by Aman Wadud on behalf of the NGO further sought a direction to the Assam government not to detain declared foreigners anymore in a detention centre or arrest them until the COVID-19 situation returns to normalcy.
The application quotes the recent statement made by the Minister of State for Home Affairs in Rajya Sabha on March 11 that there are 802 persons in six detention centres in the State.
According to the statement made by the Minister of State for Home Affairs in parliament, many of the detunes are old and ailing. At least 10 detunes have died in detention last year. From 2016, 29 detunes have succumbed to various ailments till date. In this backdrop, the representation refers to the order passed by the Supreme Court on May 10, 2019, which allowed the release of all detunes who have spent more than three years in detention, subject to execution of bonds.
It also refers to the recent direction given by the apex court regarding the release of prisoners and undertrials on parole or interim bail in lesser offences so as to decongest prisons in the wake of coronavirus outbreak. The representation seeks for extension of similar benefit to all persons kept in detention centres.
“Being human beings, they also have at least the basic right to live and to not die of COVID-19 in the precincts of a prison, which has despicable living conditions,” stated the application.
The representation stressed that detention in a foreigners’ detention centre is not imprisonment due to a criminal act but is akin to civil imprisonment, as the failure to prove Indian citizenship only entails civil consequences. Detention is supposed to be a temporary measure before the deportation of the person to the country of origin. However, the state has deported only four declared foreigners since 2013, states the representation, based on an affidavit submitted by the Assam government in the Supreme Court last year.