SC orders release of illegal foreigners detained 3+ yrs

The court passed its directions on a PIL initially filed by activist Harsh Mander, highlighting the poor conditions of the detention centres in Assam. File photo

The Supreme Court has ordered the release of all illegal foreigners who were kept at detention centres in Assam beyond a period of three years but only after taking their biometric, iris and all ten fingerprints and photos.

“In so far as the release of detainees who have served a long period of detention awaiting their deportation is concerned, we are of the view that detenues who have completed more than three years may be released,” a bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.

The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, however, said the detenues have to execute a bond with two sureties of Rs one lakh each. Such persons have also to specify verifiable address of their stay.

The top court also directed the state government to furnish a detailed scheme after discussion with the Gauhati High Court for setting up additional foreigners tribunals, including appointment of members and staff. The court gave additional time to the state government for exploring the possibility of deportation of detained foreign nationals at the diplomatic level.

The court passed its directions on a PIL initially filed by activist Harsh Mander, highlighting the poor conditions of the detention centres in Assam. The court had on May 2 replaced the name of petitioner Mander with Supreme Court Legal Services Authorities in the PIL, after taking exception to his contention of bias on the part of the CJI, who had questioned the Assam government for failing to deport over one lakh declared illegal foreigners, already mixed in the local population.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing as amicus curiae, submitted that a vast majority of about 900 such detained foreigners have remained there more than two years. He had cited a US Supreme Court's ruling which stated an illegal foreigner would be released six months after serving his sentence, pending the deportation.

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