In The Name of NRC and Foreigners' Tribunals in Assam
(Excerpts from reports by Citizens for Justice and Peace)
IN several shocking instances of the abuse and subversion of the NRC process in Assam, it has come to light that people have been forced to file Objection applications against others whose names have appeared in the NRC.
The CJP has copies of complaints filed by some such people from Kokrajhar district of Assam, who claim that they were forced by members of the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) to put their signatures on as many as 10 Objection forms.
The letters are addressed to the District Registrar of Citizens Registration and each complainant’s letter carries the ARN numbers of all people against whom the respective complainants were forced to file objection applications. All complainants have appealed that no action be taken against the innocent genuine citizens against whom the objection applications were filed. The complainants have withdrawn their objections in the letter and instead demanded action against the ABSU members who forced them to file the false objections. The incidents of coercion by ABSU members allegedly took place in December 2018, just days before the deadline for filing objections.
Meanwhile in a huge relief for inmates of Assam’s infamous detention camps, the Supreme Court has directed that those who have spent more than three years in captivity be set free subject to certain conditions. This was during the course of hearing a petition on the state of detention camps in Assam. The SC has also agreed to give additional time to the state to indicate progress made on the diplomatic level with respect to deportation of declared foreigners and setting up of additional Foreigners Tribunals in the State of Assam. The state has also been asked to place on record a detailed scheme, in consultation with the Gauhati High Court with regard to the constitution of Foreigners Tribunals including appointment of Members, staff etc.
This is the same petition that was originally filed by activist Harsh Mander. But after Mander made a plea that Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi recuse himself from the case in light of the latter’s prejudiced comments about ‘foreigners’, the apex court removed him as a petitioner and made Supreme Court Legal Services the primary petitioner instead of Mander.
The petition appeals to the Supreme Court to:
- ensure the fair, humane and lawful treatment of those persons kept in detention centres in Assam, in conformity with Article 21 of the Constitution of India and international law on treatment of immigration detainees
- ensure that detention of declared foreigners should be the last resort, for a limited period with clear prospects for release; it should be non-punitive and that it should be resorted to only after an assessment of whether there were less restrictive or coercive measures (that is, alternatives to detention) that could have been applied to the individual concerned and which would be effective in the individual case
- ensure that in the rare cases in which detention is resorted to as a last resort and for limited time, families should under no condition be separated during detention
- ensure that use of prisons and facilities designed or operated as prisons, should be abjured in all cases of such limited detention of foreigners, in keeping with international law standards on immigrant detentions
- ensure that detainees may be provided free legal aid and proper opportunity to defend themselves in challenging the order of the Foreigners Tribunals in the High Court and the Supreme Court
- to issue an order to declare those who have been determined to be foreigners and held in detention pending their repatriation, be treated as refugees
- ensure that clear polices are adopted for those detainees who agree with the state that they are foreigners; to expedite their applications for deportation
- to issue an order that that those who have been declared foreigners, but whom their country of origin does not accept as nationals of that country, be declared as Stateless persons and be granted long term visa and protections that are afforded to refugees
- ensure that the Indian juvenile justice laws are applied to all children of those deemed to be foreigners, including inter alia both the children who are detained and those who are free while their parents are detained, whereby they are all treated as children in need of care and protection.