Expressing concern over the plight of foreigners languishing in deportation camps, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday pulled up a customs official and said no country has the right to take away the liberty of any person.
A division bench said, “It is a serious matter and the liberty of an individual should not be taken so lightly.”
The court also criticised the commissioner for not providing legal assistance to foreigners in deportation camps.
Pointing out that Indian nationals are also lodged in jails in different countries, the court told the official to "set up an example for others by not infringing on the prisoners' liberty."
The court asked the commissioner of customs to formulate a time-bound scheme so that foreigners who have been acquitted by trial courts are released on a priority.
The scheme will be formulated in consultation with the chairman of central excise board and police commissioner, the court said.
The court also asked the government to clear its stand by April 23 over the new draft guidelines that suggest detained foreign nationals should not be kept in custody for long by Indian authorities after he/she is acquitted by a court.
Prepared by amicus curiae Arvind K. Nigam, the guidelines suggest that if the authorities prefer to appeal against the detained foreign national's acquittal by the court, they should do so at the earliest.
"The investigating agency must ensure that the foreigners are detained for as short a time as possible before their deportation," the guidelines said.
The court earlier pulled up the government for not deporting a Pakistani national who was acquitted by a trial court three months ago but is still languishing in the foreigners' deportation centre here.
Last year, 11 detained foreigners wrote a letter to the court complaining about poor living conditions in deportation camps. They complained about shortage of drinking water and poor quality of food served. The court took up the letter as a public interest litigation and initiated legal proceedings.