At Least 70,000 Illegal Migrants In Assam Have Vanished Before Deportation, Assam Govt Tells SC
The Assam government has submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court admitting that a minimum of 70,000 illegal migrants in Assam have vanished before deportation. All these individuals, who were declared foreigners by the tribunal, are now untraceable.
“They have mixed with the local population,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before a bench headed by Ranjan Gogoi, Chief Justice of India.
Mehta said that before the people who were determined as foreigners by the tribunal could be sent back, they had already “merged” with the locals in the state.
The court was hearing a petition that activist Harsh Mander against Assam’s detention centres. In January 2018, Mander visited three districts in his capacity as a Special Monitor for minorities and communal violence for the National Human Rights Commission. Pointing out issues and flaws in the process to identify and incarcerate foreigners in Assam, he had then submitted a report. However, he quit from the position when the committee failed to act on the report.
“Your affidavit is an exercise in futility”
The revelation left the Apex Court vexed, and made it wonder what would happen to the individuals whose proceedings the foreigner’s tribunal is yet to finalise, if those who were declared foreigners could vanish into thin air like this.
The state was also pulled up by the bench for not having its chief secretary present in the court although there was an order. Should we issue a non-bailable warrant against him?” the CJI asked Mehta.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi comes down on State of Assam in foreigners detention case.
Summons Chief Secretary and directs that he be present in Delhi till court allows him to return to Assam.
"Your affidavits are an exercise in futility, your State is playing around with this Court."
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) April 1, 2019
As Mehta said that he will make sure the chief secretary is available in the court on the next date of hearing, the chief secretary was ordered by the bench to not return to Assam until the court allows.
The bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, told the SG that his government is playing around with the court’s orders and his affidavit is an “exercise in futility”. “Despite all your non-cooperation, we can pass orders under our constitutional powers,” it said.
Mehta, however, assured the bench that the state was doing its best to deal with the issue to illegal migrants in the state, and urged the bench to hear the state on this aspect.
Earlier, the bench had asked the Assam government to provide details on the number of illegal migrants who were declared as foreigners, and those deported.
The detention centres
In Assam, six overcrowded jails serving as detention centres hold over 1,000 people. Last year, the Centre authorized the state to build the first standalone detention camp, which could house 3,000 people.
Whether an individual is a foreigner and should be deported is determined by the Quasi-judicial Foreigners’ Tribunals. Those who are declared to be foreigners are transferred to detention centres. From the brief span of time that the border police gave to produce proof of citizenship the lack of legal aid to ex-parte orders that declared people as foreigners without a trial, various flaws have been identified in this process.