GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court has ruled that the detenues, including “declared foreigners”, cannot be confined to prison and deprived of basic human rights and dignity.
The Gauhati HC’s ruling was in consonance with a Supreme Court order. Noting that 37 Pakistani prisoners could not be repatriated, even after the completion of their jail term, as their nationality was not confirmed by the Pakistan High Commission, the SC had ruled that till the time the persons were not repatriated, they could not be confined to prison and deprived of basic human rights and human dignity.
Hearing a batch of cases of “declared foreigners”, the Gauhati HC ruled that the SC had clearly provided that the detenues be kept at an appropriate place with restricted movements pending their deportation/repatriation and the places where they are to be kept may be detention centres or whatever name such places are called but must have the basic facilities of electricity, water, hygiene, etc.
“Further, the requirement is that such detention centres/holding centres/camps should be set up outside the jail premises. The state government is also to ensure that the places where they are being kept must have basic facilities of electricity, water, hygiene, etc. and that there is appropriate security at these places,” the court’s order reads.
As per the existing arrangements, persons declared “foreigners” in Assam are kept in six district jails and they are treated allegedly on a par with other jail inmates. To date, there is no designated detention camp/centre to keep the declared foreigners. One is being constructed in Goalpara district.
Taking note of the absence of designated detention centres, the court said: “...If appropriate suitable accommodation is not available and the acquisition of land and construction is pending for the purpose of setting up the detention centres, the state government may hire suitable buildings for setting up the detention centres”.
The court directed the state government to submit an action taken report, within the next returnable date, on the steps taken to set up detention centres outside jail premises. It said the authorities could hire private premises if suitable government accommodations were not available for the purpose.