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COVID-19 : Plea In SC Seeks Release Of Persons From Foreigners Detention Centres In Assam [Read Application]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
1 April 2020 12:31 PM GMT
COVID-19 : Plea In SC Seeks Release Of Persons From Foreigners Detention Centres In Assam [Read Application]
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An application has been filed in Supreme Court seeking the immediate release of 'declared foreigners' detained across six detention centers in Assam citing the risk of contracting COVID-19 infection. The applicant, an Assam based Public Charitable Trust 'Justice and Liberty Initiative', seeks to intervene in the matter where Suo Motu cognizance was taken by the Apex Court in...

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

The applicant, an Assam based Public Charitable Trust 'Justice and Liberty Initiative',  seeks to intervene in the matter where Suo Motu cognizance was taken by the Apex Court in an attempt to decongest jails by asking authorities to consider releasing specific categories of prisoners on interim bail in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

Lauding the decision of the Supreme Court to take Suo Motu cognizance of the issue, the applicant states that it was "a much-needed decisive step to protect the health, life and liberty of the prisoners and the people of this country." A similar relief is sought to be extended to those who have been declared foreigners amongst 802 persons who have been incarcerated by the Foreigners' Tribunals.

Quoting the recent statement made by the Minister of State for Home Affairs in Rajya Sabha on March 11, it is stated that there are 802 persons in six detentions centers in Assam.

Many of the detenus are old and ailing. At least 10 detenus have died in detention last year, as per the statement given by the Minister of State for Home Affairs. From 2016 till date, 29 detenus have succumbed to various ailments.

In this backdrop, the application refers to the order passed by the Supreme Court on May 10, 2019, which allowed the release of all detenus who have spent more than 3 years in detention, subject to execution of bonds.

The applicant refers to the Court's order dated 23.3.2020, wherein certain directions were passed vis-à-vis categories of prisoners who could be released on interim bail, upon determination by authorities, in an attempt to decongest jails. Attention is also drawn to the Court's observations when it issued notice to all States and Union Territories in this case on March 16: "Like most other viral diseases, the susceptibility of COVID-19 is greater in over-crowded places, mass gatherings, etc. Studies indicate that contagious viruses such as COVID-19 virus proliferate in closed spaces such as prisons. Studies also establish that prison inmates are highly prone to contagious viruses."

The applicant, an Assam based Public Charitable Trust 'Justice and Liberty Initiative', also states that a representation, via email, has been submitted to the Chief Justice of India on March 25 seeking directions for the release of, in compliance with Supreme Court's May '19 order which had allowed such release upon the fulfilment of specified conditions.

It is highlighted that detention in foreigners detention centre is not an imprisonment due to a criminal act, but is akin to civil imprisonment, as the failure to prove Indian citizenship only entails civil consequences. Detention is supposed to be a temporary measure before the deportation of the person to the country of origin. However, the state has only deported only 4 declared foreigners since 2013, states the representation, based on an affidavit submitted by Assam Government in Supreme Court last year.

"Being 'human beings' 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…Every authority or body of the state is duty bound to safeguard the rights of an individual under Article 14 and 21."

The prayer also states that immediate release may be ordered in accordance with the conditions laid down in the May '19 order, with the exception of the requirements of having been in detention for at least three years and that of furnishing two sureties of Rs. 1 lakh each.

"Detention camp is an ideal breeding ground for the virus. Stepped- up cleanings and a temporary halt to visitations at detention camps in the midst of the crisis cannot make up for the fact that ventilation behind bars is often poor, inmates sleep in close quarters and share a small number of bathrooms. It creates the ideal environment for the transmission of contagious disease. Social distancing is clearly not possible in such environment. These camps are like ticking 'time bombs' ready to explode any time. In absence of any quarantine facility inside those camps, detenues are at great risk in the event of its outbreak", the application stated.

Click here to download application

Read Application



 

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