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Tuesday, February 27, 2001

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Illegal Bangladeshi migrants strain on country: SC

NEW DELHI, FEB. 26. Expressing serious concern over the way illegal Bangladeshi migrants were pouring in, the Supreme Court today said they were a threat to both the economy and the security of the country.

``They are eating into the economy of the country and to a large extent are a security threat,'' a three-judge bench, comprising the Chief Justice, Mr. A.S. Anand, Mr. Justice R.C. Lahoti and Mr. Justice Brijesh Kumar, said during the hearing of a PIL petition filed by Mr. O.P. Saxena, seeking direction to the Government to stop the menace.

To prevent the illegal migrants, the steps taken were next to nil, the bench observed and added, ``If this is not checked the problem will go on aggravating.''

The Solicitor-General, Mr. Harish Salve, appearing for the Centre, said that the stumbling block was the Illegal Migrants Determination by Tribunal (IMDT) Act operating in Assam, which gave a long rope to the migrants to stay on. Though both the State Government and the Centre were of the opinion that it was discriminatory and had to be repealed, due to lack of political consensus the Government was not able to repeal it. The court could examine the Act and if it was found discriminatory, quash the same.

Opposing this, senior advocate, Mr. Kapil Sibal, appearing for the general-secretary of the Assam Congress, said once the Government felt it was to be repealed, necessary steps had to be taken in Parliament and the court should not step in. The court then adjourned the matter.

Mr. Saxena contended that the Indian border with Bangladesh was so porous that unless effective fencing work was done, there could be no end to illegal migration. However, the Centre said, ``It has been decided to fence the entire length of the Indo- Bangladesh border, which is scheduled to be completed by March 2007.'' Fencing was complete only in respect of 841 km, it said.

The bench said the Government needed to take exemplary steps such as deporting some illegal migrants, and added that till such steps were taken, there would be no stop to this kind of migration from the neighbouring country.

Meanwhile, a petition filed by Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal of AASU challenged the constitutional validity of the IMDT Act, while another by Jamait Ulema-e-Hind contended that the Act was a very good piece of legislation, which needed to be implemented all over the country.

When the legality of the Act was being argued, Mr. Salve said he was ready to make a statement that ``in the absence of a political consensus, repeal of the Act is not possible''.


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