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Foreigners’ tribunal: SC pulls up centre, Assam govt

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre and Assam government what they were doing to tackle the problem of external aggression being faced by the bordering state in the form of illegal immigrants.

“It has become a big joke. The situation has gone too far,” a bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.

Expressing its annoyance, the bench pointed out that the top court in the 2005 judgement in the case filed by Sarbanand Sonowal, the current Chief Minister, had said the state of Assam was facing external aggression.

“We would like to know what the Centre and Assam are doing to tackle the problem,” the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, asked.
The court also expressed its displeasure, saying Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state, has not been briefed properly about the number of foreigners who have gone missing and other related issues.

“This shows how sincerely the Assam government was considering the matter. It seems nobody is bothered,” the bench said.

Mehta said there were six detention centres in Assam which housed about 900 foreigners who had entered the country illegally or whose terms have expired.

“How many foreigners tribunals are there? Are they adequate to deal with the situation? Who are the presiding officers of those tribunals? What is the number of illegal foreigners,” the bench asked.

The court asked Assam’s chief secretary to file an affidavit before March 27 in a petition filed by civil servant-turned-activist Harsh Mander.

The petitioner has highlighted poor conditions in detention centres and sought a direction for remedial measures.

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