The Supreme Court Thursday took a serious view of the “cultural and political” conflicts due to presence of “illegal” Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam, and ordered the Centre for taking steps to deport them.
“Take steps to deport illegal immigrants immediately,” said the bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton F Nariman. The court also directed the Centre to submit a detailed response regarding the number of “identified illegal immigrants”, and the cases initiated in the tribunals set up under the Foreigners Act to take up the issue.
“Reference to the tribunals is not compulsory,” said the judges, who added that persons who were “suspected” to be illegal immigrants should be asked to prove their credentials and deported if they fail to do so. “If some defence is given then send the case to the tribunal,” said the court.
The court also commented that “political expediency” has “taken over” in Assam, where a “mess has been created” as people were granted citizenship even when they did not come within the protection of the Section 6A of the Indian Citizenship Act.
The apex court observed that the illegal settlers could have been given refugee status instead of granting citizenship rights, as the rights of “our citizens” were being violated due to influx of such people.
The counsel for the Assam government argued that the immigrants were actually “people of Indian origin”. However, the court said that they had become “not only aliens, but enemy aliens” after the partition of India.
“Absorb them as refugees if you want to show your large heart,” it said. Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the Centre, told the SC that the government was taking “all steps” to deport illegal immigrants.
The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, including two separate pleas challenging the provision in the Act that allows citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants who came to India before 1971.