NEW DELHI, Feb 19 - Even as the Supreme Court today said that it will examine the issues relating to living conditions in foreigner detention centres in Assam, the Centre informed it that 938 people are detained in six such centres in the State and 823 of them have been declared as foreigners by tribunals.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna in response to a plea filed by activist Harsh Mander said that it will examine the conditions in detention centres and the issue of long period of detention of the foreigners.
Mandar in his PIL sought a statement whether those who have been declared as foreigners and held in detention centres pending their repatriation would be treated as refugees. Mander also pleaded that detention of a foreigner should be the last resort and there should be clear prospects for their release.
After going through the data submitted by the State, the Bench remarked that only 52,000 have been declared foreigners, although the NRC has identified that there are 40 lakh illegal immigrants. While only 166 foreigners have been deported, the Solicitor General informed the court that not all the 40 lakh people, who were left out of Assam NRC, were illegal immigrants.
�How will the people have confidence in your government,� CJI Ranjan Gogoi asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who also represented the Assam government. �One issue highlighted is the poor living conditions in detention centres. You have to ensure minimum living conditions. You cannot have inhuman conditions in detention centres,� the CJI commented.
The Solicitor General told the top court that the Central government has prepared a detention manual that has guidelines for all detention centres. He further informed the court that the Centre has allotted Rs 47 crore and Assam has provided land for building a new detention centre with various facilities, keeping in mind issues covering human rights. �The new detention centre will be ready by August 31,� he said.
The court also heard the petitioner�s lawyer Prashant Bhushan before deciding that it will look into two issues in the case � living conditions in detention centres and the long period of detention. The court directed the State government to have deliberations with the Centre and sort out the issues. The matter will now be heard on March 13.
On January 28, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to provide details of functional detention centres in Assam and the foreigners detained therein during the last 10 years. More than 27,000 foreigners were pushed back at border points while attempting to enter India illegally, the Centre said in its affidavit.