GUWAHATI, August 5: In the midst of the raging citizenship debate, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre and the Assam government to submit reports on the living conditions in and facilities provided at detention centres in the state by August 24. Assam has six detention centres to house those declared non-nationals by Foreigners’ Tribunals or people who have been marked doubtful ‘D’ voters by the Election Commission.
Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta on Thursday heard an interlocutory application filed by a Guwahati-based NGO, Collaborative Network for Research and Capacity Building, on detention centres in Assam. The interlocutory application was attached to a 2013 petition, seeking a Supreme Court directive on living conditions in prisons across the country.
“It has been pointed out that notifications have been issued to the effect that some detention centres are actually located inside the premises of prisons. Therefore, detention centres are not completely independent of prisons,” the two-judge bench said in its order. It added, “Be that as it may, we would like to know from the state government as well as from the central government the facilities and living conditions of the persons in detention centres. We make it clear that our enquiry is limited only to this aspect.”
In 2012, three detention centres – at jails in Goalpara, Kokrajhar and Silchar – were set up under approval of the then UPA government. Three other centres were subsequently set up at district jails in Tezpur, Dibrugarh and Jorhat.
Weeks before the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published, the Centre had approved another
detention camp, a standalone one, in Goalpara district with a capacity of 3,000. The existing detention centres in the state – with a combined capacity of about 1,000 – are always overcrowded, with reports of inhuman living conditions for the detainees, which include children. Families often get separated – the Goalpara, Silchar and Dibrugarh centres are only for male detainees while the Kokrajhar centre is for female detainees. Only the Jorhat and Tezpur centres house both male and female inmates. (TNN)