File photo of an under-construction detention centre at a village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Gauhati High Court has given the Assam government 45 days to complete the construction of a standalone detention centre for declared foreigners being built at Matia in Goalpara district.

The court has also sought the shifting of 177 inmates of the existing detention centres, now called transit camps.

Hearing a petition, Justice Kalyan Rai Surana directed the State’s Secretary of Home and Political Department to file the updated status report after 45 days from August 11.

“…The State envisaged that the construction of detention centre at Matia, Goalpara, would be completed by September 2021. In this regard, the learned Advocate-General has submitted that although he has received specific instruction from the concerned authorities of the Home Department that expeditious steps are being taken to complete the construction work of the detention centre within a period of 1 (one) month…”

“But as a matter of abundant caution, the learned Advocate-General has prayed for allowing 6 (six) weeks’ time to the State to complete the construction of the proposed detention centre and to shift the detenues of the various detention centres…,” the court said.

The Advocate-General had told the court there are 177 inmates in the detention centres.

“It is also submitted that majority of those remaining detenus have not been able to provide the necessary documents, which the State is presently insisting for releasing them,” the court said.

The next hearing has been fixed for September 30.

People adjudged non-citizens by the quasi-judicial Foreigners’ Tribunals are sent to detention centres. Such people are tried after the Assam police’s Border wing serve them notice on suspicion of being foreigners.

Six detention centres were set up since 2008, but they were within Central Jails across the State. The Centre had in 2014 asked the States to set up at least one exclusive detention centre for foreigners or “illegal immigrants” in order not to mix them up others serving time for various crimes.

Assam planned 10 separate detention centres in view of the number of the people who would eventually be left out of the National Register of Citizens. The Matia centre, the first such being constructed on 25 acres at a cost of ₹64 crore, is designed for 3,000 inmates.

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