New Delhi, Dec 18: The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to complete fencing work along the Indo-Bangla border within three months to check cross-border influx of illegal Bangladesh nationals into Assam and streamline the process to deport them back.
A bench comprising justices RF Nariman and Ranjan Gogoi also asked the Centre to hold discussions with the Bangladesh government for ensuring that illegal migrants be sent back and passed a slew of directions in this regard.
"We are at a loss to understand why 67 years after Independence, the eastern border is left porous," it said, adding, "We have been reliably informed that the entire western border with Pakistan being 3300-kms-long, is not only properly fenced but properly manned as well and is not porous at any point."
The bench, in its 70-page verdict, directed the Centre to take all effective steps to complete the "fencing (double coiled wire fencing) in such parts/portions of the Indo-Bangla border (including Assam) where presently the fencing is yet to be completed to prevent illegal access to the country from Bangladesh".
It, however, referred to a larger bench to decide the issue of constitutuional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act with regard to the cut-off date for awarding citizenship to the migrants.
"Whether Section 6A violates Articles 325 and 326 of the Constitution of India in that it has diluted the political rights of the citizens of the State of Assam," one of the referred questions said.
On the issue of curbing influx of migrants, the bench said, "The vigil along the riverine boundary will be effectively maintained by continuous patrolling. Such part of the international border which has been perceived to be inhospitable on account of the difficult terrain will be patrolled and monitored at vulnerable points that could provide means of illegal entry."
The bench also directed that motorable roads alongside the international border, wherever incomplete or have not yet been built, will be laid so as to enable effective and intensive patrolling.
"Flood lights, wherever required, will also be provided while maintaining the present arrangements. The completed part of the border fencing will be maintained and repaired so as to constitute an effective barrier to cross-border trafficking," it said, adding it will monitor the progress made in this regard at the end of three months.
It also asked the Gauhati High Court to expedite the process of selection of the chairperson and members of the Foreigners Tribunals.
It further said that within sixty days of the selection being finalized by the Gauhati High Court, Assam should ensure that the tribunals should become operational.
"The Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court is requested to monitor the functioning of the tribunals by constituting a
Special Bench which will sit at least once every month to oversee the functioning of the tribunals," it said.
The apex court, taking note of the existing mechanism for deportation and international protocol, directed that the Centre to enter into necessary discussions with the government of Bangladesh to streamline the procedure of deportation.
It said that implementation of the directions given will be monitored by this court on the expiry of three months from oday and if necessary an empowered committee will be constituted to monitor the steps undertaken by the Centre.
The apex court also laid a time-table for updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam so that the entire updated NRC is published by the end of January, 2016.The court asked the Centre to detect and deport all illegal migrants who have come to Assam after 25 March 1971.
It, however, said that the foreigners, who came to India between 1 Jannuary 1966 to 24 March 1971, be awarded the citizenship as per law.
The apex court verdict came on the pleas of Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, Assam Public Works and All Assam Ahom Association filed in the aftermath of large-scale riots in the year 2012 and in 2014 in Assam resulting in the deaths of a large number of persons.
In their writ petition, the petitioners have said that the sovereignty and integrity of India is itself at stake as a massive influx of illegal migrants from a neighbouring country has affected the core constitutional value.