Kolkata: International rights body, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), has said that the process of finalising the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam must not be “hurried” for its consequences will be “too devastating to contemplate”.
CHRI has also termed as “unfortunate” the recent observations made by the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, on a proposal by Assam for the conditional release of suspected foreigners from detention camps.
To flag the issue, the rights body has issued a statement signed by 11 eminent citizens, including former Supreme Court judge Madan Lokur, CHRI chairperson and former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, and retired justice AP Shah.
The move comes as, during a recent hearing in the apex court, the Chief Justice brushed aside Assam chief secretary with a stinging admonition for proposing conditional release of some foreign prisoners languishing in detention beyond the term of sentence for illegal entry.
This is a case for worry as it concerns “the willful violation of the human rights of hundreds of detainees languishing in what the court itself accepts is ‘inhuman conditions”, CHRI says.
Furthermore, Chief Justice Gogoi has set July 2019 as the deadline for publishing the final NRC, which the rights body says is impractical.
It has pointed out that nearly 38-lakh out of the 40-lakh odd people excluded from the final draft of the NRC published last July, have filed appeals for inclusion.
“Such a huge number of requests cannot be processed in two months and we urge that this not be hurried as the consequences are too devastating to contemplate”.
“The efforts need to be steady and methodical so that the charges of arbitrariness prejudice and poor record keeping, which have plagued the NRC process, do not stick”, CHRI has stated.
The statement emphasises that the Supreme Court must reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to human rights on complex issues of nationality, detention, and deportation and not be unmindful of its own commitment to these duties.
CHRI has highlighted that there India has no deportation agreement with Bangladesh, while international law states that deportations can take place only with the consent of the country of origin.
Moreover, Bangladesh has consistently refused to accept that its citizens migrate in large numbers to India.
“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”, CHRI says.
The rights body says that whatever methods are used to deport the suspected foreigners, they must be undertaken within the rule of law frame, be just and fair and designed to minimise individual hardship and tragedy.