SC order on border fence

Union ministry asked to set up panel to monitor work

By RAJIV KONWAR in Guwahati
  • Published 5.08.17
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A woman dries jute fibres at Datrapara village near the India-Bangladesh border, 25km from Siliguri, on Friday. (AFP)

Guwahati, Aug. 4: The Supreme Court has asked the Union home ministry to set up a three-member committee to oversee the border fencing work along the India-Bangladesh border.

On Monday, a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, in the hearing of a case on the validity of Article 6 (A) of the Citizenship Act, asked Union home minister Rajnath Singh to form the committee with a formal notification within a week.

Former Union home secretary G.K. Pillai, former BSF director-general D.K. Pathak and Abdul Mannan, a former professor of the statistics department, Gauhati University, are the members of the committee.

The court said, "We constitute a committee to oversee the border fencing work on the India-Bangladesh border, including the riverine portion, thereof with the following persons subject to their consent."

"We would expect the committee to be constituted by a formal notification to be issued by the ministry of home affairs within seven days from today. We request the committee to commence its work immediately thereafter. The first report of the committee may be submitted to the Court within three months from today," the court order said.

"The terms and conditions of the appointment of the members of the committee, including the chairperson, will be settled by the ministry of home affairs in consultation with the persons concerned," the court said.

Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, a confederation of indigenous people of Assam, had approached the Supreme Court questioning the constitutional validity of Section 6 (A) of the Citizenship Act.

Section 6A was inserted in the Citizenship Act in 1985 in pursuance of the Assam Accord, which was signed to bring the six-year Assam Movement to an end. Through it those migrants who had entered Assam from East Pakistan (Bangladesh) before midnight of March 24, 1971 (as against 1951 for other states) were accepted as citizens of the country.

The India-Bangladesh border with Assam has a length of 267.3km. Of this, 223.06km is land border and 44.23km are river stretches and other non-feasible gaps across the river border. Within 44.23km, the Brahmaputra has a 32.75km stretch in Dhubri district.

The court, in its December 17, 2014 order, asked the Centre to take effective steps to complete the fencing (double coiled wire fencing) in such parts/portions of the India-Bangladesh border (including that falls in Assam) where the fencing was yet to be completed.

The Supreme Court, on February 7, had expressed strong displeasure over the Centre's plea that it would take at least three more years to complete fencing of the riverine border in Assam to curb unbridled infiltration.