Assam Jail Premises Cannot Serve As "Permanent" Detention Centres: Court

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 High Court

The court fixed October 16 to consider the action taken report to be submitted by the state government.


Premises of jails in Assam cannot be used as "permanent" detention centres for housing illegal foreigners, the Gauhati High Court said Wednesday, directing the state government to look for a seperate accomodation for the purpose.

The court passed the order rejecting 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," Justice Achintya Malla Bujor Barua said while hearing a batch of petitions.

"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. Even in respect of Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Tezpur a period of 5 years is almost over which also again cannot be strictly said to be a temporary arrangement. Considering the said aspect, it cannot be accepted that the respondents (government) can still rely upon that it would be permissible to declare a part of thejail premises to be detention centres " the Court order reads.

The court has directed the government to submit an action taken report within 10 days regarding hiring of suitable accommodation for the purpose.

Assam has six detention centres that are housed inside prisons, where people declared and convicted as foreigners by the foreigners tribunals in Assam are kept.

In March, the centre had informed the Lok Sabha that as many as 3,331 people have been lodged at the six detention centres in Assam, while another such facility at Matia, Goalpara with a capacity to put 3,000 people is under construction in the state.

The six detention centres are at Tezpur (797 people), Silchar (479), Dibrugarh (680), Jorhat (670), Kokrajhar (335) and Goalpara (370) people.

Till now 30 people have died while in the detention centre of Assam.

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.

"Further the requirement is that such detention centres, holding centres or camps should be set up outside the jail premises. The State Government is also to ensure that the places where they are being kept must have basic facilities of electricity, water and hygiene etc. and that there is appropriate security at these places" the order further added.

As on date, Assam government is yet to make functional the dedicated detention Centre that has come up in Matia in Goalpara.

"...If appropriate suitable accommodation is not available and the acquisition of land and construction is pending for the purpose of setting up the detention centres, the state government may hire suitable buildings for setting up the detention centres", the court further said.

The court fixed October 16 to consider the action taken report to be submitted by the state government.

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