The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has issued a press statement condemning the oral remarks made by the Supreme Court while hearing a PIL for improvement of conditions of foreigners detention camps in Assam.
“As concerned citizens, we look to the Supreme Court to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on sensitive issues. That is why we are disappointed by recent statements by the Chief Justice of India on a complex matter relating to illegal detention and deportation, without heeding India’s own constitutional and international obligations”, said the statement signed by group of eminent citizens including former Supreme Court Justice Madan Lokur, Wajahat Habibullah, CHRI’s Chair and former Chief Information Commissioner, Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and a number of senior former officials and civil society leaders.
CHRI said that while hearing a PIL filed by social activist Harsh Mander for humane treatment to suspected foreigners detained in camps, the CJI had made oral remarks to the effect that there should be more detention of suspected foreigners.
In this backdrop, Mander had filed an application yesterday seeking CJI’s recusal on the ground of subject bias. However, the bench did not appreciate the petition and dismissed it, and struck off Mander as the petitioner in the case.
In this context, the CHRI said : “While advocating greater detention of suspected ‘foreigners’, the Chief Justice brushed aside the Assam Chief Secretary with a stinging admonition for proposing a methodology for the release of a handful of foreign prisoners who had been in detention beyond their term of sentence for illegal entry. This was especially of concern for the case concerned the wilful violation of the human rights of hundreds of detainees who were languishing in what the court itself accepts are “inhuman conditions””.
The press statement said that CHRI regarded these comments by CJI ‘unfortunate’.
“We cannot place ourselves in a situation where we are seen as forcing people out at gunpoint; it would be ethically unjust, wrong in law and draw international condemnation”, said the statement.
The statement also reflected the human rights body’s concerns about the July 31 2019 deadline set by the SC for finalizing National Register of Citizens for Assam. About 38 lakh persons have filed applications for inclusion in the NRC list and it is not possible to finalize their claims within two months, said the statement.
Stating that the issue is complex, affecting the rights of lakhs of persons, most of them living in the bottom of social-economic pyramid, the CHRI added that the “situation in Assam and inter alia other parts of the North-east represent unprecedented challenges and conditions that cannot be resolved by application of a routine legal framework which is designed to deal with individual cases”.
“Failure to address this critical situation adequately and justly would be seen internationally as a gross violation of human rights and a blot on India’s traditional record. What is also of concern to us are social fault lines that could be exacerbated by insensitive handling that could leave many people desperate, particularly youth, with the potential of radicalization”, the statement said.
The Supreme Court needs to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on complex issues of nationality, detention and deportation and not be unmindful of its own commitment to these duties, it urged.