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Plea in SC for release of persons from detention centres in Assam

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An interlocutory application has been filed in Supreme Court seeking the immediate release of ‘declared foreigners’ detained across six detention centres in Assam citing the risk of contracting COVID -19 infection.

The Application for Directions in the Suo Motu matter is filed by the Applicant namely ‘Justice and Liberty Initiative’ which is an Assam based public charitable trust, registered in the year 2019. The Applicant organization is working on the ground in State of Assam to provide pro-bono legal aid to Indian Citizens who, for a variety of reasons, including for lack of legal support, poor documentation, lack of proper representation, poor assistance etc. have been accused of being illegal migrants or have been declared as foreigners by the Foreigners Tribunal. The Applicant organization comprises of leading lawyers and academicians who are committed to protecting the rights of these individuals and safeguard their faith in the Constitution and the judicial system of India.

It is pertinent to point out that the Applicant on 25th of March has submitted a representation before the Chief Justice of India by way of an email in the present case seeking directions to release the “declared foreigners” detained in six detention centres across Assam after compliance of certain conditions specified by the Supreme Court and also seeking directions the Assam Government not to detain any “declared foreigners” in the detention centres or arrest them until the situation affected by COVID – 19 returns to normalcy.

The applicant submitted that Supreme Court by the directions in the suo motu matter at the appropriate time is a much-needed decisive step to protect the health, life and liberty of the prisoners and the people of this country. Various states have already started to release incarcerated persons in pursuance of the salutary orders passed by the Court and the extant emergent circumstances.

The applicant is further seeking extension of similar relief to declared foreigner among those 802 persons who are incarcerated in various detention centres in the state of Assam pursuant to Orders passed by Foreigners Tribunals.

It was also mentioned that detention of “declared foreigners” is not subsequent to any conviction or sentence. It is trite law that the protection of Article 21 is available not only to Indian citizens but to all persons. The Applicant organization also prayed that similar benefit of release be also extended to persons “declared to be foreigners” facing perpetual detention in Assam. The persons are “human beings” and they have a minimum basic right to live and to not die of COVID-19 in the precincts of a prison merely by virtue of being confined in close human contact i.e. a negation of social distancing.

-India Legal Bureau

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