The decision of the Gauhati High Court on the issue of detention center in jails for foreigners in Assam has given a shock to the state government. Detention center is being built in Assam for people who fail to join NRC.
The court has said that detention centers cannot be run permanently in state jails and alternative arrangements should be made for this. The central government had sent guidelines to the government for these centers. The High Court has also sought an answer from the government on implementing those guidelines within 16 October. After that the next hearing of this case will be held.
Court relief to those living in detention centers of Assam
The court has said that prisoners and foreigners declared in these centers cannot always be kept in captivity and cannot be denied fundamental rights and dignity. During the hearing on several PILs filed on this issue, the court gave the above instructions.
Prime Minister Modi’s claim wrong
Detention centers built in six jails of Assam have been at the center of controversies since the beginning. Especially after the implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC), such centers have been in the headlines continuously. The news of inhumane conditions of prisoners and their deaths in these centers has also often made headlines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been accused of misrepresentation on this issue. He claimed at a rally at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan last year that there is not a single detention center in Assam. But the reality is that such centers have been running in six prisons of the state – Gwalpada, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Kokrajhar, Silchar and Tezpur for a long time. According to government figures, 425 people are living in these six centers. Currently 350 of these people are out on bail because of Corona.
Justice AMB Barua, while hearing public interest petitions filed on this issue, cited the case of Bhim Singh v. Government of India in the Supreme Court, saying that the apex court has a clear instruction that such prisoners should be kept in proper place till they are sent back. And such basic facilities including electricity, water and sanitation should be provided in such centers. The court said that these centers should be set up outside the prison premises. If proper space is not available for this and there is problem in land acquisition or construction, then the government should rent proper buildings. It has directed the government to file an affidavit on the steps taken to move these detention centers out of the jail premises before the next hearing.
The High Court also referred to the guidelines sent by the Union Home Ministry in the year 2014, in which the Detention Center was asked to be set up outside the jail premises. The court said that the Assam government has failed to implement the guidelines of the Supreme Court and the Center in this regard. On the other hand, the Assam government argues that the center had temporarily allowed detention centers to run in prison premises in 2018 through a notification. But the High Court said that such centers have been running for five to ten years. In such a situation, they cannot be justified under the guise of the notification of the Center.
Half family in NRC, half out
Assam released the updated list of NRC in August last year. According to him, those coming after 24 March 1971 will not be considered citizens. But about 19 lakh people were excluded from the final list of NRC. Now if their appeal is rejected before the foreign tribunals, then they will be sent to the Detention Center. The central government had told Parliament in March this year that 3,331 people were staying in six detention centers in Assam. However, hundreds of people have been released after that. But the Assam government had told the assembly on August 31 this year that only 425 people were staying in these centers and out of them 350 were released on bail due to Corona on the directions of the Supreme Court. Contrary to the claims of the central and state governments, the condition of the six detention centers in the state has often been questioned. Those living there neither have the right to work like ordinary prisoners nor have other facilities including parole.
Most people outside NRC claim that they are Indian citizens but their names are not included in the list due to lack of proper documents. In many families, half the people are on the list and half are out. Somewhere the husband’s name is in NRC, then the names of wife and children are excluded. There have been large-scale agitations and violent demonstrations in the state on this issue. After the release of the final list of National Register of Citizens (NRC), the largest detention center of the state is being built in Matia in Gwalpada district on the instructions of the Center. It will have the capacity to hold three thousand students. But the question is, how long can the alleged foreigners be kept in these centers? The Supreme Court had said in one of its decisions that those who have spent three years in such centers can be released on conditional bail.
Forced to live in inhuman conditions
Many public interest petitions were filed by various lawyers and organizations in the court on the lack of basic facilities in the Detention Center and the inhumane conditions there. In these petitions filed under the banner of researchers’ organization Studio Nilima, the court has been appealed to give directions to the government on this issue. Abanti Dutt, co-founder and director of Studio Neelima, says, “It was decided to knock the door of the court on the issue at a civil society meeting in the post-NRC scenario in Assam.”
Advocate Aman Wadud, associated with this organization, says, “People and foreign nationals have been kept in extremely inhuman conditions in the extremely crowded prison premises for the past decade. The intervention of the court at least gives basic facilities to such people Can meet. ” Joint Secretary of All Assam Lawyers Association T Das explains, “Our objective is to provide basic facilities to the people living in these centers till their country is not sent back. Now the intervention of the court is expected to improve the condition of the people living in these centers. ”
A non-governmental organization called the North East Linguistic and Ethnic Coordination Committee, alleging that there is an inhumane condition in the state’s detention centers, claims that even basic facilities are not available there. Shubhanshu Bhattacharya, spokesperson of the organization, says, “The condition of detention centers is very inhuman. There is neither cleanliness nor other basic facilities including treatment.” The organization argues that according to the Supreme Court guidelines, such centers should be immediately set up outside the prison premises so that they can be provided with basic facilities.