Clarke is challenged over Sikh deportation

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The Independent Online
KENNETH CLARKE, the Home Secretary, acted irrationally when he insisted on the deportation of a Sikh religious leader who said that he had been tortured by the Indian authorities, the High Court was told yesterday.

The claim came when Karamjit Singh Chahal challenged, for the second time, the legality of the Home Office's decision. A year ago, a High Court judge told the previous Home Secretary, Kenneth Baker, to reconsider the ruling.

Yesterday, Nicholas Blake, for Mr Chahal, said that he faced a 'real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment' if returned to India. He had been tortured by police while on a visit there in 1984, as had members of his family, Mr Justice Potts was told.

Despite these risks, Mr Clarke had taken the 'perverse and irrational' decision to refuse Mr Chahal asylum and to deport him, Mr Blake said. Mr Clarke had accused him of a 'public history of violent involvement in Sikh terrorism', partly as a result of a nine-month prison sentence imposed on Mr Chahal for causing actual bodily harm in 1987. Even though this conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal, the Home Secretary refused to withdraw his accusations.

Neither had Mr Clarke taken account of the first judicial review brought by Mr Chahal, at which Mr Justice Popplewell overturned the refusal to grant asylum. At that hearing, the judge said the Government had failed to explain whether it accepted reports by Amnesty International detailing persecution of Sikhs in Punjab, he added.

In response, the Home Office said that it could not challenge much of Amnesty International's evidence, but neverthless insisted that Mr Chahal would not face torture if he returned to India. The Government argued that Mr Chahal was involved in terrorist activities and had to be expelled in the public interest, Mr Blake said.

The Home office did not accept that Mr Chahal had the right to refugee status but, even if he did, Mr Clarke wanted him deported for national security reasons, the court was told.

By citing national security as grounds for expulsion, Mr Clarke was able to deny Mr Chahal the right to take his case to an immigration appeal tribunal, Mr Blake added. Instead, matter was considered by three national security advisers, where Mr Chahal appeared unrepresented, and was prevented from hearing details of the case against him.

The hearing continues today.