‘SC view on foreigners detention defies constitutional obligations’

A rights body, comprising a retired Supreme Court judge and a former Assam police chief, has said the apex court’s remark on the detention of ‘foreigners’ in Assam was unfortunate and “flies in the face of India’s constitutional and international obligations.”

One of the reasons, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) pointed out, is that accounts from Assam indicate “arbitrariness and not rule of law” is often used to define those who came post 1971 from Bangladesh – of whatever religious denomination – and those who are Indian nationals.

“Lakhs are in a limbo and now fear that they may become “stateless” because of a process that is mired in a mix of complexity, confusion, lack of precision and prejudice,” a statement issued by the CHRI on Thursday night said. The chairperson of CHRI is Wajahat Habibullah, India’s first Chief Information Commissioner. The members include Madan B. Lokur, former Supreme Court judge; A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary in the United Nations, and Jayanto N. Choudhury, former Assam Director General of Police.

“The Supreme Court needs to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on complex issues of nationality, detention and deportation and not be unmindful of its own commitment to these duties,” the CHRI said.

CJI’s admonition

The statement was in reference to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi’s admonition of Assam Chief Secretary for proposing a method for the release of foreign prisoners in detention beyond their term of sentence for illegal entry. The rebuke was while advocating greater detention of suspected ‘foreigners’. “We regard these remarks as unfortunate as the case concerned the wilful violation of the human rights of hundreds of detainees languishing in “inhuman conditions”, the CHRI said, referring to Article 21 that says no person can be deprived of her/his right to life and liberty.

A process that is mired in complexity, confusion... prejudice

Commonwealth Human

Rights Initiative

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