Raymond Chinenyeuba Nweze came to India in 2014 to trade in garments in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu. In September 2016, he was arrested at a police checkpoint in Nagaland’s Dimapur for not carrying proper travel documents. Thus began Newze’s ordeal, said a petition moved on his behalf before the Supreme Court on Thursday.
He pleaded guilty to the offence of violating his visa stipulations and was convicted under the Foreigners Act, 1946. The court, noting the Nigerian national had no criminal record, adjusted his sentence to the time he had already spent in jail as an under trial – eight months and 17 days. It also asked the authorities to help Nweze reach the Nigerian embassy.
Nweze was to be freed on May 25, 2017. But even 15 months after completing his sentence, he remains in jail.
According to the petition filed on Nweze’s behalf by a social activist, S Solomon Shaikh, the Nigerian’s mother died in June last year and his father in October. Their bodies are still lying in the mortuary of the State Hospital in Ebony, Nweze’s hometown, because “as per his family custom, it is the eldest son who has to complete the funeral rites of his parents”.
Nweze has made representations to the Ministry of External Affairs but received no response. Abishek Jebaraj, the lawyer who appeared on behalf of the petitioner, said the representations had also been forwarded to the Nigerian embassy, but to no avail. Alerting Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to Nweze’s ordeal through Twitter has not helped either.
The petition argued that Nweze’s incarceration beyond the sentence imposed by the court is a grave violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees right to life and liberty.
But the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain the petition and asked Solomon to move the Guwahati High Court. In its order, however, a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, without commenting on the merits of the case, told the central government to dispose of Nweze’s representation within four weeks.