The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to submit details about the number of functioning detention centres in Assam, the number of foreigners who have been detained there in the last 10 years and for how long they were detained, PTI reported. The court also sought details of their cases before the Foreigners Tribunal.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna were hearing a petition filed by activist Harsh Mander against the detention centres.
Mander had visited three Assam districts last January in his capacity as a Special Monitor for minorities and communal violence for the National Human Rights Commission. He had then submitted a report pointing out several flaws in the process to identify and incarcerate so-called foreigners in Assam. But as the committee failed to act on the report, he quit from the position.
“We would like to know as to how many detention centres are there,” the judges said on Monday. “We also want to know how many persons are lodged there and since when.”
The court also asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for details on the number of people who illegally entered India in the last 10 years, number of people who have so far been declared foreigners and how many of them were deported.
Directing the government to submit the details within three weeks, the court posted the matter for further hearing on February 19.
Six overcrowded jails in Assam double up as detention centres, holding over 1,000 people in all. Last year, the state got sanction from the Centre to build the first standalone detention camp, capable of housing 3,000 people.
Quasi-judicial bodies Foreigners’ Tribunals determine if individuals being tried are foreigners and should be deported. Those deemed to be foreigners are transferred to detention centres. Several flaws have been identified in this process, from the brief window of time given by the border police to produce proof of citizenship to the lack of legal aid to ex-parte orders declaring individuals foreigners without even a trial.