Amid the national lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic, a rights group from Assam has asked the Chief Justice of India to release "declared foreigners" from six detention centres in the state on humanitarian grounds.
The non-profit group Justice and Liberty Initiative (JLI) has written to the Supreme Court seeking bail for declared foreigners in Assam's detention centres.
"As human beings, they also have at least basic human rights to live and not to die of COVID-19 in the precincts of a prison, which has despicable living conditions," advocate Aman Wadud said on behalf of JLI.
In the representation sent to the Chief Justice of India, JLI thanked the top court for its effort to ensure release of prisoners on parole and those awaiting trial for offences entailing maximum sentence of seven years so that the jails do not become breeding grounds for COVID-19. The JLI pleaded that the declared foreigners of Assam who are in detention centres be considered for release.
JLI said some of them are genuine Indians, but due to poor documentation or poor legal assistance and lack of resources, have not been able to prove they are citizens. There are 802 declared foreigners in six detention camps in Assam.
The forum in its representation also pointed out that according to the government, 29 declared foreigners have died in detention due to illnesses since 2016, with 10 of them having died between March 1, 2019 and February 20 this year.
The Supreme Court last year allowed conditional release of declared foreigners who have served more than three years in detention.