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Detention at Deportation Centre under Foreigners Act after acquittal is grossly unlawful: Delhi High Court

In the purview of habeas corpus, the Delhi High Court in the case of Ruma Bibi v State & Ors [W.P.(CRL) 902/2020] held that any detention at deportation centers construed under the Foreigners Act after the acquittal of the accused shall be regarded as unlawful. The writ petition was filed before the bench comprising Siddharth Mridul J. and Anup Jairam Bhambhani J.

The immediate facts are that Asif Hossain was apprehended from New Delhi Railway Station on 13.12.2012 under sections 419/420/468/471/120B of IPC, sections 3/9 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923 and sections 14A and 14B of the Foreigners Act 1946. Upon trial, Asif Hossain was convicted under section 3 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923 and section 474 IPC vidé judgment dated 28.10.2016. Further vidé order dated 09.11.2016, he was sentenced to undergo incarceration for a period of 09 years for the offence under section 3 of Official Secrets Act, 1923 and for 4 years along with a fine of Rs.10,000/-, with default imprisonment of 09 months for the offence under section 474 IPC. However, Asif Hossain was given the benefit of doubt for the commission of offences u/s 419, 466 IPC and section 14A and 14B of the Foreigners Act 1946 and was accordingly acquitted qua those offences.

Despite the acquittal, the petitioner’s husband was detained at the ‘Sewa Sadan Deportation Centre’ Narela, Lampur Village, Delhi, is without any justification and contrary to the relevant provisions of the Foreigners Act.
It was contended that although proceedings under section 9 of the Foreigners Act, to determine whether Asif Hossain is or is not a foreigner are under contemplation; but the same have yet to be initiated against Asif Hossain, therefore the detention was not contrary. However, the Court observed that “Asif Hossain has already undergone the entire sentence awarded to him by the learned trial court, as modified by this court pursuant to his initial detention on 13.12.2012. It is further observed that the order acquitting Asif Hossain for the commission of offenses under sections 14A and 14B of the Foreigners Act has since attained finality as the same has not been impugned by the official respondents. In other words, the official respondents have been unable to establish that Asif Hossain is a foreign national. There is also no quarrel with the factual position that Asif Hossain is not wanted in any other case or that he has other criminal antecedents.

The court held that “the present habeas corpus petition is allowed and Asif Hossain is directed to be released from ‘Sewa Sadan Deportation Centre’ Narela, Lampur Village, Delhi forthwith.” The Court also as a caveat attempt in the finding of prospect evidence also ordered the petitioner to submit the correct addresses in case of any future investigation against the individual.

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