The Supreme Court Wednesday expressed its displeasure that foreign nationals kept in a detention centre in Assam are “separated” from their families and asked the state government to look into the issue with some urgency so that families are “not broken up”.
“You cannot separate them from their families like this,” a bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for Assam.
The bench was dealing with the issue related to condition of the detention centre in Assam. It considered the note submitted by advocate Gaurav Agrawal, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the jail reforms matter, on this issue and said these detenuee cannot be separated from their families.
The ASG told the court that there was “space constraint” in keeping families of the detenuee in the detention centre. He said necessary arrangements could be made for the families subject to availability of accommodation in the detention centre and he would take instructions on the issue. The bench also asked the state to provide gas cylinders and other necessary facilities at the detention centre.
“We expect state of Assam to act with some degree of promptitude in this regard as it relates to Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution,” the bench said.
It also asked the Assam government to explore the possibility of converting the earlier jail in Guwahati, which was shifted to a new building, into a detention centre for foreign nationals.
The ASG said that he would take instructions in this regard after which the bench posted the matter for hearing on September 20.
Meanwhile, ASG ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the court that they were in the process of finalising a manual for keeping foreign nationals in detention centres across the country.
The bench asked government to prepare the manual “at the earliest”. The Centre also told the court that Rs 46.51 crore has been sanctioned to Assam for construction of detention centre.
Mehta informed the bench that a piece of land near Goalpara district in Assam has been earmarked for construction of a detention centre and work was expected to be over within a year.
The Centre told the apex court that they had sent a communication to all the states in September 2014 regarding foreign nationals kept in detention centres.
“We are not at all surprised that not a single state has set up separate detention centre,” the bench said, adding that these foreigners cannot be kept in jails with other criminals after they serve their respective sentences.