The bench, also comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Sanjeev Khanna, was Hearing a PIL by activist Harsh Mander for the humane treatment of the immigrants held in detention centres in Assam.

At the outset the bench observed that judicial attention would be required to be focused on two primary issues raised in the present writ petition, namely, (i) the living conditions in detention centres and (ii) justification of the long detention of persons identified to be foreigners or convicted under the Foreigners Act, 1946 pending deportation.

As the SG, representing the state of Assam, submitted that the said 40 lakh people not included in the NRC could not all be regarded as illegal immigrants, the Chief Justice continued,

“Of these 52,000 declared foreigners, only 166 have been deported? What have you been doing for so many years?…Moreover, what happens when even after their nationality has been confirmed, the concerned state refuses to take them back? The government (of India) sends them back and they keep returning?”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, for the petitioner, contended that several immigrants have been in detention since 2010.

Noting that the inmates of these detention centres cannot be deprived of their human rights, the court weighed in that the immigrants be so confined only for the least possible period- “How do you justify holding these people in detention for so many years?…We do not need to refer to an American judgment to know that the duration of detention must be minimal!”, remarked the Chief Justice.

The bench required the Centre and the Assam government to engage in a discussion in this behalf.

Mr. Bhushan also averred that the immigrants are brought to the border by the Army personnel in trains, with each coach stuffed full, and then released at the border. “As far as we know, the Indo-Bangladesh border is not accessible by train. We would like to know which is the report that claims this?”, commented Chief Justice Gogoi. The Counsel clarified that after the train route ends, they are carried to the border via road.

When the bench reflected on the atrocious state of these centres, the SG advanced that he has personally visited them and found them to be nothing like the prisons. ‘They offer facilities for recreation, games, TV etc’, he said.

“You must have notified them prior to your visit. So obviously they would be ready in welcome…do you know how old these buildings are?”, said the Chief Justice.

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Source: Live law