The Gauhati High Court has asked the Assam government to present an action taken report in connection with steps taken to build detention camps outside jail premises in Assam. The court was hearing a batch of petitions related to detention camps being built outside jail premises.
At present six detention camps are functional in Assam. They operate out of makeshift facilities in District jails in Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Silchar, Dibrugarh and Jorhat. But these detention centres operating out of district jails were supposed to be a temporary arrangement but they have been operational for anywhere between 5-10 years.
The Gauhati High Court ordered, “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 and if necessary by following the requirement of the two communication dated 07.03.2012 and 10.09.2014 as well as the Clause 4.1 and 4.4 of the model manual which requires that if suitable government accommodations are not available for the purpose, the authorities may also be required to hire any private premises for the purpose.”
The petitions spearheaded by senior lawyer and Nilay Dutta delved into the standards and facilities to be ensured at such centers as well as the manner in which they are required to be operated by authorities for keeping illegal immigrants and ‘foreigners’, as well as others who are awaiting deportation/repatriation to the countries of their origin or waiting an adjudication of their respective claims.
In an order issued on October 7, 2020, the Gauhati High Court noted, “The Supreme Court had clearly provided that the detenues be kept at an appropriate place with restricted movements pending their deportation/repatriation and the places where they are to be kept may be detention centres or whatever name such places are called but must have the basic facilities of electricity, water and hygiene etc.”
It also noted how subsequent to this SC order, the Ministry of Home Affairs had on March 7, 2012, issued a communication addressed to all Principal Secretaries to all states and union territories which inter alia provides that “such category of persons be released from jail immediately and they may be kept at an appropriate place outside the jail premises with restricted movement pending repatriation.”It further noted, “In the said communication, it was taken note of that the Supreme Court had provided that if such persons cannot be repatriated and have to be kept in jail, they cannot be confined to prison and be deprived of the basic human rights and human dignity.”
In a subsequent communication dated September 10, 2014 the MHA cited a previous letter dated November 23, 2009 that laid down “detailed procedure to be adopted for deportation of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, State Governments/UT Administrations were requested to set up sufficient number of detention centres in each State/UT where the suspected illegal immigrants would be detained pending their deportation.”
The court also noted that the communication dated September 10, 2014 said that “pending acquisition of lands and construction of buildings, the State Governments/UT Administrations may consider hiring of suitable accommodations for the purpose and further in case of non-availability of government buildings, the State Governments may look for hiring private building subject to production of non-availability certificate and rent assessment by CPWD/PWD.”
This led the court to two key conclusions:
detention centres must be outside the jail premises.
pending any acquisition of lands and construction of buildings, the State Government may find suitable accommodations for the purpose and if government buildings are not available, the State Government may look for hiring private buildings for the purpose.
The court further 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 entire order may be read here: