Guwahati: The Gauhati High Court has criticised the Assam government for operating six detention centres for housing illegal foreigners within jail premises, and directed it to submit an action taken report within 10 days regarding hiring of suitable accommodation for the purpose.
Justice Achintya Malla Bujor Barua rejected the state government’s argument of relying on a 2018 communication by the Union Home Ministry to declare a part of jail premises as detention centres.
“It is noted that even the model manual for the detention centres provides that the detention centres shall be set up outside the jail premises. If suitable accommodations are not available, the State Government may look for hiring of private buildings for the purpose,” the court order said on Wednesday, while hearing a batch of petitions.
The petitions raised the issue of how the detention centres are required to be operated by the authorities for the purpose of keeping illegal foreigners, migrants and others who are awaiting deportation or repatriation to the countries of their origin or awaiting adjudication of their respective claims.
Citing a Supreme Court order and subsequent instructions from the Union Home Ministry, the high court said the state should set up sufficient detentions centres outside the jail premises and these must have basic facilities of electricity, water and hygiene along with security.
Assam has six detention centres, which were created by making a part of the existing jails at Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Jorhat, Silchar, Dibrugarh and Tezpur, and the state government on August 31 had informed the Assembly that currently 425 persons are lodged in these places.
The prison procedures applicable to undertrials and convicts cannot be applied to foreign nationals who entered the country illegally or illegal migrants lodged in detention centres inside jails, the order said.
The Court noted that although the authorities cite a communication from the Centre that allows using of jail premises until setting up of detention centre is pending, but said it should be “purely temporary measure” and such premises should be “well segregated from the prisons”.
“…it is discernible that more than 10 years have gone by since a part of the jail premises in Goalpara, Kokrajhar and Silchar had been declared to be detention centres. Certainly a period of more than 10 years cannot be understood to be a temporary arrangement,” the court said.
Even in respect of Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Tezpur, a period of five years is almost over and it “also again cannot be strictly said to be a temporary arrangement”, he added.
“We require the authorities in the State Government, Home and Political Affairs to submit an action taken report within the next returnable date on the steps that have been taken to set up detention centre outside the jail premises,” the order said.
It added that the action taken report should state about alternate arrangements of hiring private premises as detention centres “if suitable government accommodations are not available for the purpose”.
The court fixed October 16 to consider the action taken report to be submitted by the state government.