Arbitrariness and not rule of law is used to define those who came post 1971 from Bangladesh of whatever religious denomination and those who are Indian nationals, says the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). Comprised of a retired Supreme Court judge and a former Assam police chief, thr rights group said the apex court’s remark on the detention of ‘foreigners’ in Assam was very much unfortunate. The CHRI said it ‘flies in the face of India’s constitutional and international obligations’.
An official statement by the CHRI said lakhs are in limbo and fear that they may become ‘stateless’ because of a process that is mired in a mix of complexity, confusion, lack of precision and prejudice. “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.” The CHRI made this statement in regards to the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi admonishing Alok Kumar, Assam Chief Secretary, for proposing a methodology for the release of a handful of foreign prisoners who have been in detention beyond their term of sentence for illegal entry.
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The human rights group brought to notice that the case concerned wilful violation of human rights of hundreds of detainees who were languishing in what the court itself accepts are ‘inhumane conditions’. Referring to Article 21, the CHRI said no person in India can be deprived of her or his rights to life and liberty without due process. Furthermore, there is no deportation agreement with Bangladesh. “International law lays down that such deportation can take place only with the consent of the country of origin. Bangladesh has consistently refused to accept that its citizens migrate in large numbers to India,” it said. “Bangladesh regards such unilateral efforts as harmful to a bilateral relationship that is critical for the security and stability of both countries and especially of our eastern region.” The CHRI said 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.
The human rights group called for the a just and fair method within the rule of law frame, designed to minimize individual hardships and tragedy.