The Centre Thursday told the Supreme Court that it was in the process of framing guidelines for keeping foreign nationals in detention centres across the country.
The government told a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that the process would take around three months. “We are of the view that three months is too long,” the bench said, adding “this matter requires some urgency. We expect the detention manual to be prepared within two months.”
The bench was dealing with issues relating to the condition of detention centres in Assam.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued circulars to all the states laying down the guidelines with respect to the detention centres.
ASG Tushar Mehta, appearing for Assam government, said that an older jail premise in Guwahati cannot be converted into a detention centre as the building was not in a proper condition.
He said 20 acres of land near Goalpara district in Assam has been earmarked for making a new detention centre in the state which would be constructed within a year.
When the bench said the process of construction of the detention centre should be completed soon, ASG Mehta said they would expedite it.
Mehta also said that the process of uniting the families of some of the foreign nationals, who are kept in detention centres in Assam, has also started.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Harsh Mander who has filed a separate plea in the matter, said the condition of foreign nationals kept at the detention centres in Assam was not good.
“The larger issue is can these people be permitted to be detained indefinitely just because they are not Indian citizens,” he said, adding that they were being treated as “illegal aliens”.
Bhushan referred to a US Supreme Court judgement and said it had held that the government cannot keep the foreign nationals in detention indefinitely. The bench issued notice to the Centre and the Assam government on Mander’s plea and asked them to respond to it within four weeks.
It also asked the state government to file an affidavit indicating the condition of detention centres and jail in Goalpara district and about the facilities provided to the inmates lodged there.
The apex court had on September 12 expressed displeasure that foreign nationals kept in detention centres in Assam were “separated” from their families and had asked the state government to look into the issue with urgency so that the families are “not broken up”.