Monday, 30th October 2017

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Plea to release ‘declared foreigners’ from detention centres of Assam

In May 2019, the SC had ordered for conditional release of those who have spent more than 3 years in these centres

By Rokibuz Zaman in Guwahati
  • Published 26.03.20, 1:15 AM
  • Updated 26.03.20, 1:15 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Guwahati Central Jail Telegraph picture

Justice and Liberty Initiative, an Assam-based organisation which provides legal aid, has written to the Chief Justice of India to release “declared foreigners” from detention centres of Assam in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.

On the behalf of the organisation, Aman Wadud, a human rights’ lawyer, on Wednesday mailed a 12-page representation to the Chief Justice of India seeking the “immediate release all declared foreigners” and not detaining anymore “declared foreigners” or arrest them until the situation returns to normal.

The minister of state in the ministry of home affairs, Nityanand Rai, had said in the Rajya Sabha early this month that as on March 6 there were altogether 802 persons in six detention centres in Assam.

The Supreme Court had ordered in May 2019 for conditional release of those who have spent more than three years in these centres.

It has also been urged to display its magnanimity and dilute the condition of financial surety that was imposed in its May 2019 order. All these detention camps are housed within district jails but kept separately from the other inmates. The first detention centre was set up in 2009, prodded by a Gauhati High Court order in a case dealing with “illegal” foreigners.

“The court has already taken a bold and decisive step towards ensuring that prisons do not become breeding grounds of Covid-19 and has ordered a high-powered committee to come up with modalities of releasing prisoners on parole, and that under trials awaiting trial for offences entailing maximum sentence of seven years also be extended a similar benefit. The applicant organisation prays that similar benefit be also extended to persons “declared to be foreigners” facing perpetual detention in Assam. 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,” the organisation said in the representation. “It is reported that at least 10 detainees died in detention from March 1, 2019, to February 29, 2020, as informed by the minister of state in the ministry of home affairs in the Lok Sabha,” it mentioned.

That in the wake of Corona virus outbreak, the detainees will be more vulnerable in the already crowded detention centres, Wadud said.

He said the top court had issued notice to all the states and Union territories, to show cause why directions should not be issued for dealing with the present health crisis arising out of coronavirus with regard to prisons and remand homes.

“It is also a fact that most of the detention centres are now overcrowded and in the event of outbreak of Covid-19, the result is not difficult to perceive. Moreover, Article 21 applies to all natural persons,” he said.