SC permits conditional release for those who have completed 2 years in detention camps

The CJI led bench modified its earlier order of May 2019 whereby detainees who had completed more than 3 years could be released

SC detention camp

The Supreme Court has decided to allow the release of detainees who have spent more than 2 years in Assam’s detention camps on surety of Rs. 5,000. This is a very important decision coming from the apex court especially amidst the burgeoning Covid-19 health crisis in the country. While compassion was shown for prisoners convicted of less serious offences by letting them off on parole, it was expected that the similar compassion was in the offing for these “declared foreigners” who have been kept in Assam’s six detention camps by the state.

This order is effectively a modification of earlier order of the apex court of May 2019 which had allowed inmates who have spent more than 3 years in detention to be released. Although, the surety amount was much higher then, Rs. 1 lakh. Hence, this order is a relaxation of the earlier order and is also in line with a petition pending before the court by one of the detainees asking to be released as he had completed 2 years in detention.

This order came in an earlier petition which was filed by an Assam based organization called Justice for Liberty Initiative which had sought release of all the detainees. During the hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal had raised an objection on releasing the detainees by stating that these detainees would infect people in villages or wherever they go, after their release. This contention was however refuted by the petitioner’s counsel stating that this was based on a unfounded premise that all detainees are already infected by the virus. Although, the petitioner prayed that all detainees be released, the CJI led bench stated that at this stage it will only give an order for release of inmates who have completed more than 2 years in detention.

As per figures submitted in the Parliament in the Budget session, there are 802 inmates lodged in makeshift detention camps in Assam’s district prisons and most of those who have been released from these camps owing to the last apex court order have pointed to the deplorable living conditions in these camps.

The operative part of the order of May 2019 reads as follows:

“Insofar as the release of detenues who have served long period of detention in the detention centres awaiting their deportation is concerned, we are of the view that detenues who have completed more than three years may be released, subject to the following conditions:-

(a) Execution of bond with two sureties of Rs.1,00,000/- (Rupees one lakh only) each of Indian citizens;

(b) He or she specifies verifiable address of stay after release;

(c) Biometric of his/her iris (if possible) and all ten fingerprints and photos shall be captured and stored in a secured database before release from the detention centres. He or she shall report once every week to the Police Station specified by the Foreigners Tribunal;

(d) He or she shall notify any change of his or her address to the specified Police Station on the same day, and

(e) A quarterly report to be submitted by the Superintendent of Police (Border) to the Foreigners Tribunal regarding appearance of such released declared foreigner to concerned Police Station and in case of violation of condition, the DFN will be apprehended and produced before Foreigners Tribunal.” 

Citing the pandemic as a new development since the May 2019 order of the court, the bench decided to modify the earlier order as follows:

“Having regard to the present circumstances prevailing in the country and having regard to the fact that we have already permitted the release of prisoners and people under detention in general, and such detenues who have completed three years upon their declaration as foreigners, we see no reason why the period should not be reduced from three years to two years, that is to say, the prisoners or detenues who have been under detention for two years shall be entitled to be released on the same terms and conditions as those laid down in the aforesaid order dated 10.05.2019, except that they shall not be required to furnish a bond in the sum of Rs.1,00,000/- (Rupees one lakh only). Instead they shall be required to furnish a bond in the sum of Rs.5,000/- (Rupees five thousand only) with two sureties of the like sum of Indian citizens. Rest of the conditions in the said order dated 10.05.2019 reproduced above shall apply.”


The Supreme Court order may be read here.



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