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AusHRC 49: Cherkupalli v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration & Citizenship)

2012

Cherkupalli v Commonwealth of Australia
(Department of Immigration & Citizenship)

Report into arbitrary detention

[2012] AusHRC 49


March 2012
The Hon Nicola Roxon MP
Attorney-General
Parliament
House

Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Attorney

I have completed my report of an inquiry into the complaint made pursuant to
section 11(1)(f)(ii) of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) by Mr Prashant Cherkupalli.

I have found that the acts of the Commonwealth breached Mr Prashant
Cherkupalli’s fundamental human right not to be subject to arbitrary
detention protected by article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights.

By letter dated 31 October 2011, the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship provided its response to my findings and recommendations. I have set
out this response in its entirety in part 15 of my report.

Please find enclosed a copy of my report.

Yours sincerely
Catherine Branson
President

Australian Human Rights Commission
T +61 2 9284 9614
F +61 2 9284
9794
E associate@humanrights.gov.au


Contents


1 Introduction

  1. This is a report setting out the Commission’s findings and the reasons
    for those findings following an inquiry by the Australian Human Rights
    Commission into a complaint lodged by Mr Prashant Cherkupalli.

  2. Mr Cherkupalli complains that his detention by the Department of Immigration
    and Citizenship (the Department) involved acts inconsistent with or contrary to
    human rights, namely the right to liberty in article 9 of the International
    Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
    (ICCPR).

2 Summary

2.1 Summary of
findings

  1. I have found that the following acts of the Department were inconsistent
    with the human rights of Mr Cherkupalli for the reasons indicated:

    1. The act of the Commonwealth in deciding to detain, and thereafter
      detaining, Mr Cherkupalli in reliance on s 192 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (the Migration Act) was inconsistent with article 9(1) of the ICCPR as I
      am not satisfied that the detaining officer turned his or her mind to the
      requirements of s 192(2) of the Migration Act.

    2. The act of the Commonwealth cancelling Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa
      was inconsistent with article 9 of the ICCPR as it led to his detention and the
      procedures established by s 119 to s 121 of the Migration Act were not complied
      with.

    3. The act of the Commonwealth in deciding to detain Mr Cherkupalli in
      reliance on s 189 of the Migration Act was inconsistent with article 9(1) of the
      ICCPR because the detaining officer did not hold a reasonable suspicion that Mr
      Cherkupalli was an unlawful non-citizen and therefore the procedures established
      by law were not complied with.

    4. The failure of the Commonwealth to review the relevant aspects of Mr
      Cherkupalli’s file, or alternatively to review it with reasonable care,
      was inconsistent with article 9(1) of the ICCPR because it rendered his
      detention in reliance on s 189 of the Migration Act thereafter not ‘in
      accordance with such procedures as are established by law’.

    5. The failure of the Commonwealth to consider and place Mr Cherkupalli in a
      less restrictive form of detention than an immigration detention centre from the
      outset of and throughout Mr Cherkupalli’s detention was inconsistent with
      article 9 of the ICCPR.

    6. The refusal by the Commonwealth to grant Mr Cherkupalli a bridging visa was
      inconsistent with article 9 of the ICCPR.

  2. I have therefore concluded Mr Cherkupalli was arbitrarily deprived of his
    liberty from 26 November 2004 to 19 April 2006, a period of 509
    days.

2.2 Summary of
recommendations

  1. In light of my findings regarding the acts of the Commonwealth I make the
    following recommendations:

    1. That the Commonwealth pay financial compensation to Mr Cherkupalli in the
      sum of $697 000.1

    2. That the Department ensure that its staff receive training in the
      importance of protecting the right to liberty and, in that context, the
      importance of maintaining accurate and detailed records of decisions made and
      the reasons for those decisions.

    3. That to the extent possible, the Department provide training to all
      ‘officers’ within the meaning of the Migration Act on the proper
      exercise of the discretion to detain under s 192(1) of the Migration
      Act.

    4. That the detaining officers considering whether to detain a non-citizen
      whose visa has recently been cancelled be required to check carefully the record
      of the decision cancelling the visa for errors, including possible procedural
      errors on the face of the document, before making the detention decision.

    5. That officers reviewing the legality of a person’s detention be
      required to pay particular attention to the record of the visa cancellation
      decision for any potential errors on the face of the document.

    6. That regular reviews of a non-citizen’s detention under s 189 and s
      190 of the Migration Act include consideration of whether the non-citizen is in
      the least restrictive form of detention.

    7. That the Minister reconsider Mr Cherkupalli’s application under s 351
      of the Migration Act in light of the findings in this report and in particular,
      my finding that Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa was not authorised by s 119
      to s 121 of the Migration Act.

    8. That the Commonwealth provide a formal written apology to Mr Cherkupalli
      for the breaches of his human rights identified in this
      report.

3 Complaint

  1. Mr Cherkupalli is an Indian national who came to Australia on 30 July 2003
    to undertake a Master of Computer Studies degree. At this time, successful
    completion of this course of study would have qualified him for a permanent
    Australian visa.

  2. Mr Cherkupalli’s initial student visa gave him a limited right to
    work. However, after this visa expired on 13 August 2004 and pending the
    processing of his application for a further student visa, he was granted a
    bridging visa which was subject to the condition that he not work.

  3. On 26 November 2004, Mr Cherkupalli was found working at Michel’s
    Patisserie in Chester Hill in breach of the no work condition of his bridging
    visa. He was detained and taken to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre where
    his bridging visa was cancelled.

  4. Mr Cherkupalli was not released from Villawood Immigration Detention Centre
    (VIDC) until 19 April 2006 (i.e. 17 months or 509 days later) when he was
    granted another bridging visa and ultimately a further student visa.

  5. Mr Cherkupalli’s application for a further student visa was, as
    mentioned above, pending when he was detained. On 22 December 2004 this
    application was refused because of his failure to comply with the ‘no
    work’ condition on his bridging visa. He challenged this decision in the
    Federal Magistrates Court and on 18 November 2005, that Court made a consent
    order remitting the decision to the Department for reconsideration. That
    reconsideration ultimately resulted in Mr Cherkupalli being granted a further
    student visa but that visa was not granted for nearly two years.

  6. In the meantime, Mr Cherkupalli made at least ten applications for a
    bridging visa. Three of these applications were refused and the refusals upheld
    by the Migration Review Tribunal. In the case of seven of the applications, the
    Department sought the provision of surety in the amounts of either $10 000 or $8
    000. As Mr Cherkupalli could not raise these amounts he withdrew the
    applications.

  7. As a consequence, Mr Cherkupalli remained in detention at VIDC until April
    2006 when, following community representations to the Minister, he made a
    further application for a bridging visa which was granted the same day. No
    surety was sought on this occasion.

  8. Mr Cherkupalli was granted a further student visa on 29 October 2007 and he
    completed his Master of Engineering Studies in April 2009. By that time the
    successful completion of his course of studies did not qualify him for a
    permanent Australian visa.

  9. A chronology of key events is set out in Appendix 1.

4 Legislative
framework

4.1 The Commission can
inquire into ‘acts’ or ‘practices’ of the
Commonwealth

  1. Section 11(1)(f) of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) gives the Commission the function of inquiring into any act or practice
    that may be inconsistent with or contrary to any human right. Section 8(6) of
    the AHRC Act requires that this function be performed by the President.

  2. Section 20(1)(b) of the AHRC Act requires the Commission to perform that
    function when a complaint is made to it in writing alleging such an act or
    practice.

4.2 What is a
‘human right’?

  1. Section 3(1) of the AHRC Act defines ‘human rights’ to include
    the rights and freedoms recognised by the ICCPR.

  2. Article 9(1) of the ICCPR provides:

    Everyone has the right to
    liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or
    detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in
    accordance with such procedures as are established by law.

4.3 What is an
‘act’?

  1. Section 3(1) of the AHRC Act defines ‘act’ to include an act
    done by or on behalf of the Commonwealth. Section 3(3) of the AHRC Act provides
    that a reference to, or to the doing of, an act includes a reference to a
    refusal or failure to do an act.

  2. The functions of the Commission identified in s 11(1)(f) of the AHRC Act are
    only engaged where the act complained of is not one required by law to be
    taken.2

  3. Mr Cherkupalli has identified ten separate acts of the Commonwealth which he
    alleges are inconsistent with his right to liberty as recognised by article 9 of
    the ICCPR. Each of these acts is separately considered below.

5 Mr Cherkupalli’s
detention under s 192 of the Migration Act

  1. On 26 November 2004, Mr Cherkupalli was found by departmental officers
    working in breach of the ‘no work’ condition on his bridging visa.
    He was detained at the place where he was working and held in detention, in
    purported reliance on s 192 of the Migration Act. He was taken to VIDC for
    questioning and shortly after his interview, a departmental officer cancelled
    his bridging visa.

  2. He alleges that his detention during this period of approximately two hours
    was inconsistent with article 9(1) of the ICCPR for two reasons. First, he
    alleges that the detaining officer did not comply with the requirements of s 192
    of the Migration Act; and secondly, he alleges that his detention was in any
    event arbitrary in the sense of being unreasonable and inappropriate in the
    circumstances.

5.1 Is there an
‘act’?

  1. I accept that this initial period of detention was purportedly authorised
    under s 192 of the Migration Act. That section relevantly
    provides:

    Detention of visa holders whose visas liable to
    cancellation

    (1) Subject to subsection (2), if an officer knows or reasonably suspects
    that a non-citizen holds a visa that may be cancelled under Subdivision C, D or
    G of Division 3 or section 501 or 501A, the officer may detain the
    non-citizen.

    (2) An officer must not detain an immigration cleared non-citizen under
    subsection (1) unless the officer reasonably suspects that if the non-citizen is
    not detained, the non-citizen would:

    1. Attempt to evade the officer and other officers; or

    2. Otherwise not cooperate with officers in their inquiries about the
      non-citizen’s visa and matters relating to the visa.

    ...

  2. As s 192 of the Migration Act is a provision that, in the circumstances
    specified by the section, allows but does not require the detention of a
    non-citizen, the detention of Mr Cherkupalli in purported compliance with the
    section was an ‘act’ of the Commonwealth within the meaning of the
    AHRC Act.

5.2 Detention under s
192 of the Migration Act inconsistent with article 9(1) of the
ICCPR

  1. Mr Cherkupalli claims that this initial period of detention was inconsistent
    with article 9(1) of the ICCPR because the Department did not follow the
    procedures established under s 192 of the Migration Act.

  2. Subject to the requirements of s 192(2) of the Migration Act, I am satisfied
    that the circumstances of Mr Cherkupalli’s case enlivened the discretion
    vested in an officer of the Department by s 192(1) of the Migration Act. The
    critical issue is whether the detaining officer reasonably suspected that, were
    Mr Cherkupalli not detained, he would attempt to evade the officer or other
    officers or otherwise not cooperate with them in their enquiries.

  3. The Department has acknowledged that nothing in the material before the
    Commission suggests that the requirement of s 192(2) was considered at the time
    of Mr Cherkupalli’s initial detention. I am satisfied that this material
    tends positively to suggest that the requirement was not considered. Not only is
    there no record of the detaining officer forming the relevant suspicion, I
    accept the truth of Mr Cherkupalli’s statement that the situation at the
    relevant time was ‘chaotic’ and he was not asked any questions that
    might cast light on whether, were he not detained, he would co-operate or be
    likely to evade the detaining officer or other officers. I conclude that the
    detaining officer did not give consideration to the requirement of s 192(2) and
    did not hold the relevant suspicion.

  4. Even were I satisfied that the detaining officer held the relevant
    suspicion, I would not be satisfied that the suspicion was reasonable. While the
    Department’s records show that ‘on entry three persons were seen
    attempting to decamp the premises’, nothing in the records, or in any
    other material before me, suggests that Mr Cherkupalli was one of these three. I
    am not satisfied that he was. Nor am I satisfied that there existed at the time
    any other basis on which the detaining officer could hold a reasonable suspicion
    that, if not detained, Mr Cherkupalli would attempt to evade him or her or other
    officers.

  5. I conclude that the act of the Commonwealth in deciding to detain, and
    thereafter detaining, Mr Cherkupalli in reliance on s 192 of the Migration Act
    was inconsistent with the right to liberty recognised by article 9(1) of the
    ICCPR in that he was deprived of his liberty without the procedures established
    by law being complied with.

5.3 No finding on
arbitrariness in the wider sense

  1. Having found that Mr Cherkupalli’s detention during this period was
    inconsistent with the right to liberty recognised by article 9(1) of the ICCPR,
    I do not consider it necessary to make any further finding on whether the
    detention was arbitrary in the sense of being unreasonable and inappropriate in
    the circumstances.

6 The decision to cancel Mr
Cherkupalli’s bridging visa

  1. Mr Cherkupalli alleges that the decision to cancel his bridging visa on 26
    November 2006 was unlawful because the Department did not comply with the
    procedural fairness processes prescribed by s 119 to s 121 of the Migration Act.
    In particular, he claims that he was not given written notice of the intention
    to cancel his visa before his visa was cancelled as required by s 119(1) of the
    Migration Act. He further alleges that, in any event, the visa cancellation was
    arbitrary.

6.1 Is there an
‘act’?

  1. Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa was cancelled under s 116(1) of the
    Migration Act. Section 116(1) allows, but does not require, a visa to be
    cancelled if the Minister, or his or her delegate, is satisfied of one of a
    number of specified circumstances. The decision to cancel a visa under s 116(1)
    is therefore an ‘act’ of the Commonwealth within the meaning of the
    AHRC Act.

6.2 Cancellation of
bridging visa inconsistent with article 9(1) of the ICCPR

  1. It is unfortunate that this inquiry is taking place almost seven years after
    the cancellation of Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa. The time delay
    exacerbates the difficulty of determining precisely what happened on 26 November
    2004. The officer who cancelled Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa concedes
    she does not have a clear memory of the events of that night and does not recall
    Mr Cherkupalli in particular.

  2. Mr Cherkupalli’s statutory declaration sheds little light on what
    occurred during the cancellation interview. He states:

    We were then
    called in for an interview one by one. The officers prepared the forms. I tried
    to explain about the fact that I had only been working a few hours. They asked
    me to sign the forms and I did.

  3. The written record of what happened at the relevant time is contained in two
    forms that were completed by the departmental officers at or about the time of
    the decision to cancel Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa. The first form is a
    Notice of Intention to Consider Cancellation and the other is a Record of
    Decision Whether to Cancel Visa. Both of these forms record that Mr Cherkupalli
    received notice of the intention to cancel his visa at 21:50 hours on 26
    November 2004. The second form records that he was notified of the visa
    cancellation at 21:30 hours on the same day; that is, 20 minutes before the time
    recorded as the time when he received notice of the intention to cancel his
    visa.

  4. The act of cancelling Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa made him
    vulnerable to being deprived of his liberty because the detention of unlawful
    non-citizens is mandatory under s 189 of the Migration Act. Strict compliance
    with the requirements of the Act in respect of visa cancellation is thus of
    utmost importance. I am not satisfied that the requirements of s 119 to s 121 of
    the Migration Act were complied with, and in particular the requirement of s
    119(1) that the visa holder be given particulars of the grounds on which
    cancellation is being considered and invited to show within a specified time
    that those grounds do not exist or that there are reasons why the visa should
    not be cancelled.

  5. I am not satisfied that the forms completed by the departmental officers on
    26 November 2004 accurately record what happened that evening. However, I am
    satisfied that:

    1. Mr Cherkupalli was given no meaningful opportunity to show why his visa
      should not be cancelled; and

    2. it is likely that he was not invited to show within a specified time or at
      all that the grounds on which cancellation was being considered did not exist or
      that there was a reason why his visa should not be cancelled.

  6. I think it likely that, as Mr Cherkupalli’s statutory declaration
    indicates, both forms were completed more or less contemporaneously and without
    Mr Cherkupalli being afforded the opportunity to speak against the
    cancellation.

  7. I note that the Department has conceded that, if a court were to review its
    decision to cancel Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa, there is a reasonable
    prospect that it may be set aside for jurisdictional error for apparent failure
    to comply with the relevant statutory cancellation procedural
    provisions.3

  8. I am therefore satisfied that s 119 of the Migration Act had not been
    satisfied at the time that Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa was
    cancelled.

  9. I conclude that the act of the Commonwealth cancelling Mr
    Cherkupalli’s bridging visa was inconsistent with his right to liberty
    recognised by article 9(1) of the ICCPR in that his visa was cancelled, with the
    consequence that he became liable to mandatory detention, without the procedures
    established by law being complied with.

6.3 No finding on
arbitrariness in the wider sense

  1. I do not consider it necessary in the circumstances to make a further
    finding on whether the cancellation of Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa was
    arbitrary in the wider sense.

7 The decision to detain
under s 189 of the Migration Act

  1. Mr Cherkupalli alleges that the Department did not follow the procedures
    established by s 189 of the Migration Act when detaining him indefinitely at
    VIDC on 26 November 2004. In particular, he claims that there could not have
    been a reasonable basis for the suspicion that he was an ‘unlawful
    non-citizen’ because the Department’s decision to cancel his visa
    was invalid. Further, this error was on the face of the decision record.

  2. As a consequence, Mr Cherkupalli submits that the entire period of his
    detention from 26 November 2004 – 19 April 2006 was inconsistent with his
    right to liberty under article 9(1) of the ICCPR.

7.1 Is there an
‘act’?

  1. Under Australian law, the lawfulness of the decision to cancel Mr
    Cherkupalli’s bridging visa is a separate issue to that of the lawfulness
    of Mr Cherkupalli’s detention. The power to detain an individual until a
    visa is granted or he or she is removed from Australia under the Migration Act
    is contained in s 189 and s 196 of the Migration Act.4 Section 189(1)
    of the Migration Act provided at the time that:

    If an officer knows
    or reasonably suspects that a person in the migration zone (other than an
    excised offshore place) is an unlawful non-citizen, the officer must detain the
    person.

  2. Accordingly, in order to detain a person under s 189 of the Migration Act, a
    departmental officer must either know or ‘reasonably suspect’ that
    the person is an unlawful non-citizen. Once an officer of the Department has the
    requisite knowledge or reasonable suspicion, detention under s 189(1) is
    mandatory.5

  3. In Ruddock v Taylor,6 the High Court discussed the meaning
    of ‘reasonably suspects’ under s 189 of the Migration Act. The
    majority found that ‘what constitutes reasonable grounds for suspicion
    should be judged against what was known or reasonably capable of being known at
    the relevant time’.7 Consequently, a ‘suspicion’
    under s 189 of the Migration Act can still be ‘reasonable’ where it
    is based on an opinion that is later found to be legally flawed.

  4. The majority observed in Ruddock v Taylor, that each officer had been
    provided with what, on its face, appeared to be a regular and effective decision
    of the Minister to cancel the respondent’s visa. Each officer checked
    whether the respondent held any other visa and only detained the respondent upon
    finding that he did not hold another visa.8 It had not been suggested
    that the officers had acted in bad faith. The majority concluded that the
    suspicion held by each officer was reasonable in the
    circumstances.9

  5. In Goldie v Commonwealth of Australia and Others,10 Gray
    and Lee JJ found that the word ‘reasonably’ required that a
    suspicion that a person is an unlawful non-citizen be justifiable upon objective
    examination of relevant material. In Goldie, the Department made a
    decision to cancel the appellant’s visa based on a search of computer
    records without having also searched the appellant’s file. The officer
    formed the view that the appellant was an unlawful non-citizen and detained the
    appellant under s 189(1) of the Migration Act. The appellant in fact held a
    valid visa at the time he was detained. The Court found that there was an
    ‘absence of sufficient search or inquiry to make the formation of the
    suspicion justifiable on objective
    examination’.11

  6. The majority in Goldie considered that where an officer is aware of
    conflicting facts, the reasonableness of any suspicion formed by the officer
    must be judged in the light of the facts available to him or her at the
    particular time.12 The majority stated:

    [T]he appropriate
    construction of s 189 is that an officer, in forming a reasonable suspicion, is
    obliged to make due inquiry to obtain material likely to be relevant to the
    formation of that suspicion.13

  7. Accordingly, I proceed on the basis that before a detaining officer can be
    found to have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that a person is an unlawful
    non-citizen he or she is required to make sufficient inquiries to satisfy him or
    herself that facts exist to support this state of mind. In my view, the steps a
    detaining officer either takes or fails to take to inform him or herself of
    facts sufficient to form the ‘reasonable suspicion’ required by s
    189 of the Migration Act are ‘acts’ of the Commonwealth for the
    purposes of the AHRC Act.

7.2 Decision to detain
under s 189 of the Migration Act inconsistent with article 9(1) of the
ICCPR

  1. Mr Cherkupalli claims that the detaining officer could not have reasonably
    suspected that he was an unlawful non-citizen because the document recording the
    decision to cancel his bridging visa indicates that the decision to cancel his
    bridging visa was made 20 minutes before he was given written notice of the
    Department’s intention to cancel his bridging visa.

  2. Mr Cherkupalli contends that it should have been plain to the detaining
    officer handling his case that the cancellation of his bridging visa was tainted
    with procedural error and therefore invalid.

  3. I accept the Department’s submission that a reasonable suspicion may
    be legally flawed. However, in light of the majority’s ruling in Ruddock v Taylor, it is necessary for me to assess whether the facts the
    detaining officer was ‘reasonably capable of knowing at the relevant
    time’ were compatible with a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that Mr
    Cherkupalli was an unlawful non-citizen.

  4. The departmental officer responsible for cancelling Mr Cherkupalli’s
    bridging visa states that while the form called ‘Notice of Intention to
    Cancel’ bears her signature, the handwriting in the form is not hers. She
    has concluded from a reading of the records that another officer of the
    Department commenced the interview and that she completed it and made the
    decision to cancel Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa. Ms Stephens, the
    departmental officer responsible for cancelling Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging
    visa, states:

    (W)hilst it is clear that I did make the decision to
    cancel the visa, it is not clear on the documents provided who actually made the
    decision to detain Mr Cherkupalli (I would suggest that the decision to detain
    this client was not mine).

  5. I accept that the detaining officer was probably not Ms Stephens but rather
    another departmental officer. The material before me does not disclose what
    documentation was before the detaining officer or what steps or checks he or she
    undertook. It seems likely that the record of the decision to cancel Mr
    Cherkupalli’s bridging visa was before the detaining officer and I so
    conclude. As noted above, a significant anomaly is apparent on the face of this
    document. It records that the decision to cancel the bridging visa was made at
    21:30 hours while also recording that the visa holder received notice of
    intention to consider cancelling his bridging visa at 21:50 hours on the same
    day.

  6. I conclude that the detaining officer ought to have examined the record of
    the decision to cancel Mr Cherkupalli’s bridging visa and identified this
    anomaly. Had he or she done so they would have been alerted to the possibility
    that the requirements of the Migration Act had not been complied with and the
    need to make due inquiry to satisfy themselves that it was reasonable to suspect
    that Mr Cherkupalli was an unlawful non-citizen.

  7. As indicated above, I am satisfied that if the detaining officer had made
    proper inquiries they would have discovered that the requirements of s 119 to s
    121 of the Migration Act had not been complied with. That is, in contrast to the
    situation in Ruddock v Taylor discussed above, the error in this case was
    ‘reasonably capable’ of being known at the time the decision to
    detain Mr Cherkupalli was made.

  8. For the above reasons, I conclude that at the time the decision to detain Mr
    Cherkupalli was made the delegate did not hold a reasonable suspicion that he
    was an unlawful non-citizen. Accordingly, I conclude that the act of the
    Commonwealth in deciding to detain Mr Cherkupalli in reliance on s 189 of the
    Migration Act was inconsistent with his right to liberty recognised by article
    9(1) of the ICCPR in that he was deprived of his liberty without the procedures
    established by law being complied with.

  9. I note that the Department submits that the apparent error in the decision
    document does not lead to arbitrary detention because the same decision (to
    cancel the visa) would have been made had the error been discovered earlier and
    the decision revisited.

  10. I respectfully note that this submission appears to accord limited respect
    to an assumption inherent in the legislative requirement that the holder of a
    visa be given the chance to show cause why his or her visa should not be
    cancelled. That assumption is that the Minister or the delegate will consider
    with an open mind whatever the visa holder puts forward and, as appropriate,
    reconsider the initial tentative decision accordingly.

  11. I do not consider it appropriate to speculate on whether, given the
    appropriate opportunity, Mr Cherkupalli could have satisfied the delegate that
    his visa should not be cancelled at all, or should not have been cancelled
    immediately. In any event, the critical issue is whether the detaining officer
    followed the procedures established by law when detaining Mr Cherkupalli. I have
    concluded that the detaining officer did not.

  12. Further, I note that Mr Cherkupalli has submitted that:

    the lack
    of satisfactory documentation disclosing any decision by the Department to
    detain pursuant to either s 192 or s 189, yet alone disclosing any proper
    consideration of the jurisdictional preconditions to detention of Mr Cherkupalli
    under either of those sections is further evidence of the arbitrariness of his
    detention.14

  13. I accept that the absence of satisfactory documentation is in the
    circumstances of this case a factor tending to suggest that the requirements of
    the Migration Act were not followed. I once again stress that the keeping of
    accurate records concerning decisions to detain individuals is an important
    element of ensuring the protection of the right to liberty. The lack of
    appropriate records in this case is a cause for concern.

8 No review of the legality
of Mr Cherkupalli’s detention

  1. Mr Cherkupalli alleges that the Department failed to review the legality of
    his detention and that this was inconsistent with article 9(1) of the
    ICCPR.

8.1 Is there an
‘act’?

  1. I accept that Mr Cherkupalli’s detention from shortly after his
    bridging visa was cancelled on 26 November 2004 until 19 April 2006 was
    purportedly authorised under s 189 of the Migration Act.

  2. Any decision to detain a person on the grounds of ‘reasonable
    suspicion’ under s 189 of the Migration Act carries with it a
    responsibility to continue to assess the validity of the decision in the light
    of further inquiries and information, to determine whether the suspicion
    continues to exist and that it is still reasonably held.15

  3. The failure to make sufficient inquiries to properly sustain the
    reasonableness of the suspicion required by s 189 of the Migration Act is an
    ‘act’ of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the AHRC
    Act.16

8.2 Failure to review
the legality of detention inconsistent with article 9(1) of the
ICCPR

  1. Given that the right to liberty is at stake, a high degree of care is
    required from departmental officers charged with the responsibility of ensuring
    the requisite ‘reasonable suspicion’ continues throughout a
    person’s detention under s 189 of the Migration Act.

  2. The Department submits that ‘it did not become apparent that there
    were possible problems with the bridging visa cancellation decision until early
    February 2010’. This was well after Mr Cherkupalli was released from
    immigration detention. The Department further submits that the relevant officers
    held an ongoing reasonable suspicion that Mr Cherkupalli was an unlawful
    non-citizen under s 189 of the Migration Act throughout the entire period of his
    detention.17

  3. As outlined in the chronology in Appendix 1, during the period of Mr
    Cherkupalli’s detention, he made at least ten applications for a bridging
    visa.

  4. It has not been suggested that any of these applications were regarded as
    invalid. I therefore conclude that one or more departmental officers considered
    each of them. Proper consideration of each application would require a review of
    Mr Cherkupalli’s file. A review of Mr Cherkupalli’s file should have
    revealed the discrepancies on the face of the record of the cancellation of Mr
    Cherkupalli’s bridging visa. For this reason, the fact that Mr Cherkupalli
    may not have been an unlawful non-citizen was ‘reasonably capable’
    of being known shortly after Mr Cherkupalli made his first application for a
    bridging visa.

  5. Mr Cherkupalli made his first application for a bridging visa on 29 November
    2004. A departmental officer presumably considered this application within a
    reasonable time thereafter. In the circumstances I consider that a reasonable
    time for this purpose was in the order of two weeks. I therefore conclude that
    the error was reasonably capable of being known on or about 13 December
    2004.

  6. The failure of the Commonwealth to review this aspect of Mr
    Cherkupalli’s file, or alternatively to review it with reasonable care was
    inconsistent with article 9(1) of the ICCPR because it rendered his detention in
    reliance on s 189 of the Migration Act thereafter not ‘in accordance with
    such procedures as are established by law’.

9 Failure to review
appropriateness of detention in an immigration detention centre

  1. Mr Cherkupalli alleges that the Department’s failure to review the
    appropriateness of his detention and the Department’s repeated decisions
    to impose unreasonable bond requirements were both inconsistent with his right
    to liberty under article 9(1) of the ICCPR.

  2. In my letter setting out the acts or practices raised by the complaint that
    appear to be inconsistent with or contrary to human rights (s 27 letter), I
    dealt with these two allegations together as ‘the Department’s
    failure or refusal to detain Mr Cherkupalli in a less restrictive detention
    option other than detention in an immigration detention centre’.

  3. In the Department’s response to the s 27 letter, it submitted that by
    considering the possible grant of a bridging visa to Mr Cherkupalli, the
    Department did consider the possibility of releasing Mr Cherkupalli from
    immigration detention on a number of occasions prior to the eventual bridging
    visa grant in April 2006. I accept this submission.

  4. I will therefore deal separately with these two aspects of Mr
    Cherkupalli’s complaint.

9.1 Is there an
‘act’?

  1. As discussed above, s 189(1) of the Migration Act requires the detention of
    persons reasonably suspected to be unlawful non-citizens. However, the Migration
    Act did not require that Mr Cherkupalli be detained in an immigration detention
    centre.

  2. The definition of ‘immigration detention’ includes ‘being
    held by, or on behalf of an officer in another place approved by the Minister in
    writing’.18

  3. Further, s 197AB of the Migration Act, which was inserted into the Migration
    Act during Mr Cherkupalli’s detention on 29 June 2005,
    states:

    If the Minister thinks that it is in the public interest to
    do so, the Minister may make a determination (a residence determination) to the
    effect that one or more specified persons to whom this subdivision applies are
    to reside at a specified place, instead of being detained at a place covered by
    the definition of immigration detention in subsection 5(1).19

  4. In my view, it was within the power of the Minister to have approved Mr
    Cherkupalli’s residing in a place other than the VIDC throughout his
    detention. It was also within the Minister’s power to make a residence
    determination in relation to Mr Cherkupalli under s 197AB of the Migration Act
    from 29 June 2005 onwards.

  5. I therefore consider that the failure by the Minister to consider or approve
    detention in a place other than the VIDC or later to make a residence
    determination to both be ‘acts’ of the Commonwealth under the AHRC
    Act.

9.2 Failure to detain in
less restrictive form of detention inconsistent with article 9(1) of the
ICCPR

  1. To avoid being arbitrary, detention must be necessary and proportionate. The
    State must demonstrate that there is no less invasive means of achieving the
    outcome that it seeks.

  2. Mr Cherkupalli was detained in VIDC for 17 months after failing to comply
    with the no work condition of his bridging visa. Mr Cherkupalli’s
    detention in VIDC for 17 months would not be arbitrary if the Department could
    show that it was necessary. However, the Department’s submissions do not
    address this point and it has offered no justification for Mr
    Cherkupalli’s ongoing detention in VIDC rather than in the community.

  3. In the Department’s response to the s 27 letter, it submits that the
    power in s 197AB of the Migration Act was initially used primarily for moving
    family groups into community detention. It appears that it was also used mainly
    where bridging visas were not available to effect release from detention.

  4. The Department does not allege that the individual circumstances of Mr
    Cherkupalli’s case justified continued detention in an immigration
    detention centre because he posed a risk to the community or was a high risk
    case for absconding or any other matter that might reasonably justify the extent
    of the restriction on his liberty. Indeed, Mr Cherkupalli submits that he had
    ‘repeatedly made it clear to departmental officers that his desire and
    intention was to obtain a student visa as quickly as possible so that he might
    continue his studies’.20

  5. I therefore conclude that the Commonwealth’s failure to consider and
    place Mr Cherkupalli in a less restrictive form of detention than an immigration
    detention centre from the outset of and throughout Mr Cherkupalli’s
    detention was inconsistent with article 9(1) of the ICCPR.

10 Refusal to grant a
bridging visa

  1. Mr Cherkupalli alleges that the Department’s repeated decisions to
    impose unreasonable bond requirements when considering his applications for
    bridging visas were inconsistent with his right to liberty under article 9(1) of
    the ICCPR.

  2. Mr Cherkupalli submits that the Department continued to require, as a
    condition to the grant of a bridging visa, a security bond of an amount that it
    was informed he was unable to pay.21 I accept that the
    Department’s decision to impose security bonds resulted in it failing to
    grant Mr Cherkupalli a bridging visa.

10.1 Is there an
‘act’?

  1. By virtue of s 73 of the Migration Act, it was within the Minister’s
    power to issue Mr Cherkupalli with a bridging visa,22 provided the
    Minister could be satisfied that Mr Cherkupalli would abide by any conditions if
    imposed or security had been lodged where this had been
    requested.23

  2. The grant of a bridging visa is thus a discretionary act. Further, the
    imposition of a security bond is a discretionary act.

  3. I therefore consider the Department’s refusal to grant Mr Cherkupalli
    a bridging visa until 19 April 2006 an ‘act’ of the Commonwealth for
    the purposes of the AHRC Act.

10.2 Refusal to grant a
bridging visa inconsistent with article 9(1) of the ICCPR

  1. Mr Cherkupalli sought a bridging visa on at least ten occasions before he
    was finally granted a bridging visa on 19 April 2006.

  2. The Department has submitted that:

    due to the individual
    circumstances of his case, including the risk that he would not abide by further
    immigration requirements, these visa (Bridging Visas) were not granted and Mr
    Cherkupalli remained in detention.

    ...

    When Mr Cherkupalli’s individual circumstances changed, the Minister
    withdrew from the Federal Court case and the Department’s approach to
    reviewing the cases of clients in detention changed, a Bridging Visa was in fact
    granted and he was released from detention. This indicates that the period of
    detention was based on Mr Cherkupalli’s individual circumstances, and on
    reasonable and proportionate criteria, and therefore not
    arbitrary.24

  3. In its response to the s 27 letter, the Department notes that the Migration
    Review Tribunal affirmed three of these decisions.

  4. In seven of the ten applications, the Department imposed a condition that Mr
    Cherkupalli provide a security deposit. The deposit sought was:

    1. $10 000 on the applications dated 20 June, 8 July and 14 July 2005;
      and

    2. $8 000 on the applications dated 19 August, 19 September, 29 September and
      5 October 2005.

  5. It appears that the purpose of the Department’s insistence on a bond
    was to ‘encourage compliance with visa conditions’. Mr
    Cherkupalli’s submissions refer to a policy document concerning the
    security bond identified as ‘Migration Series Instruction 388’. This
    document purportedly stated at the time that ‘a decision maker must ask
    for a security bond which is sufficiently high to act as a strong incentive to
    encourage compliance with visa conditions’.25

  6. The Department has submitted that ‘at the time, Migration Series
    Instruction 388 provided policy guidance to departmental officers that if a bond
    was requested, $10 000 was a reasonable amount’. The Department further
    submits that the fact that it reduced the bond requested to $8 000 and then
    ultimately did not insist on a bond is evidence that it considered Mr
    Cherkupalli’s circumstances when setting the bond.

  7. In the Department’s response to the s 27 letter, it submits that the
    Department ‘continues to believe that its decisions, including those in
    relation to the imposition of the bond, were appropriate in the circumstances
    and within the policy framework at the time’.

  8. The refusal to grant Mr Cherkupalli a bridging visa resulted in his
    detention in an immigration detention centre for a period of 17 months because
    he worked, apparently for a few hours, in contravention of his visa conditions.
    In my view, the legitimate aim of encouraging compliance with visa conditions
    does not justify Mr Cherkupalli’s prolonged detention and the extreme
    interference with his right to liberty under article 9(1) of the ICCPR.

  9. The legitimate aim of ensuring compliance with visa conditions could have
    been achieved in this case through less invasive and more proportionate means
    such as imposing reporting conditions on the bridging visa.26 I
    therefore conclude that the Commonwealth’s refusal to grant Mr Cherkupalli
    a bridging visa was inconsistent with article 9(1) of the ICCPR.

11 The failure to afford Mr
Cherkupalli an opportunity to comment and the refusal to grant student
visa

  1. Mr Cherkupalli alleges that the Department failed to provide him with an
    opportunity to comment on whether he ‘substantially complied with the no
    work condition of his bridging visa’ when determining whether to grant him
    a student visa.

  2. He says that this act prolonged his detention in VIDC because, had the
    delegate asked Mr Cherkupalli for his comments, the delegate would have learned
    that the day he was found working at Michel’s Patisserie was the first and
    only day he worked in non-compliance with the no work condition and that he had
    only worked for a few hours to fill in for a friend.

  3. Mr Cherkupalli claims that had the delegate known this information, the
    delegate would have concluded that he had ‘substantially’ complied
    with the no work condition and a student visa would have been granted.

  4. In support of this argument, he points to the fact that the Department
    ultimately granted him a student visa on 29 October 2007 after it provided him
    with an opportunity to provide information on 6 February 2006. Mr Cherkupalli
    claims that had an opportunity to comment been provided initially, he would have
    been granted a student visa and released from detention in or around December
    2004.

11.1 Is there an
‘act’?

  1. I accept that a decision to grant Mr Cherkupalli a Student (Temporary)
    (Class TU) Visa under Regulation 572.212 and in particular, the decision to not
    provide Mr Cherkupalli with an opportunity to comment on the case against him,
    are exercises of discretion and therefore ‘acts’ of the Commonwealth
    for the purposes of the AHRC Act.

11.2 No finding on
failure to provide an opportunity to comment and refusal to grant student
visa

  1. I note that the Department refused Mr Cherkupalli’s application for a
    student visa on 22 December 2004 and that the Minister consented to the remittal
    of Mr Cherkupalli’s application for a student visa on 18 November 2005. I
    also note that on 6 February 2006 the Department wrote to Mr Cherkupalli
    inviting him to comment on information which was relied upon to refuse the
    student visa application.

  2. I acknowledge that the Department granted Mr Cherkupalli a student visa
    after receiving his comments. The inference is therefore open that the student
    visa was granted because of his comments. However, this is not the only possible
    explanation. Other factors could have been influential on the Department. I
    note, for example, that in mid-April 2006 members of the Wollongong community
    wrote to senior departmental officers on his behalf. Other factors may also have
    been influential including the irregularities attending the earlier cancellation
    of his bridging visa, the period that he had spent in detention and possible
    changes in Departmental policy.

  3. While I accept that both the failure to afford Mr Cherkupalli an opportunity
    to comment and the refusal to grant him a student visa on 22 December 2004 were
    inconsistent with the requirements of the Migration Act, I am not persuaded that
    if he had been granted that opportunity he would have been immediately granted a
    visa or that he would have been granted a visa earlier than in fact proved to be
    the case.

12 Inexplicable
administrative delay

  1. Mr Cherkupalli also alleges that the Department’s inexplicable delay
    in granting him a student visa following the remittal of his application
    prolonged his detention in VIDC and was inconsistent with article 9(1) of the
    ICCPR.

12.1 Is there an
‘act’?

  1. I accept that the alleged ‘inexplicable delay’ by departmental
    officers can constitute an ‘act’ of the Commonwealth for the
    purposes of the AHRC Act.27

12.2 No finding on inexplicable administrative
delay

  1. The Department took approximately 23 months – or almost two years
    – to make a decision on Mr Cherkupalli’s remitted student visa
    application. I note that prior to the Department granting Mr Cherkupalli a
    student visa, he was released from detention on a grant of a bridging visa on 19
    April 2006.

  2. The period taken to process Mr Cherkupalli’s student visa seems, on
    its face, to be unreasonably long.

  3. The Department submits that Mr Cherkupalli’s student visa application
    contained outstanding processing requirements which delayed the processing of
    his application. In particular, it appears that Mr Cherkupalli took some time in
    providing the required financial and medical documents and that the financial
    documents needed to be verified in New Delhi twice. The Department submits that
    at least part of the delay was therefore reasonable and within the control of Mr
    Cherkupalli.

  4. I accept that the delay was in part caused by Mr Cherkupalli’s failure
    to provide adequate documentation. However, the Department has not provided any
    justification for the 80 day period between the remittal order made on 18
    November 2005 and its first letter to Mr Cherkupalli inviting his comments which
    is dated 6 February 2006. I assume that no reasonable justification can be
    provided.

  5. Accordingly, I am satisfied that the administrative delay in writing to Mr
    Cherkupalli to invite his comments was unreasonable. I am also of the view that
    delay in the processing of applications that could result in a person being
    released from detention in an immigration detention centre can be inconsistent
    with the right to liberty.

  6. However, in the circumstances of this case, I am not satisfied that the
    delay of 80 days following the issue of the consent remittal orders on 18
    November 2005 prolonged Mr Cherkupalli’s detention in an immigration
    detention centre. Mr Cherkupalli was released from the VIDC on 19 April 2006
    after members of the Wollongong community made representations to senior
    departmental officers and after lodging a further application for a bridging
    visa. I am not persuaded that, had the 80 days’ delay not occurred, a
    student visa would have been granted to Mr Cherkupalli earlier than this date.
    In these circumstances, I make no finding in relation to the departmental
    officers’ inexplicable administrative delay in processing Mr
    Cherkupalli’s student visa application.

13 Failure to provide
judicial review

  1. Mr Cherkupalli also alleges that ‘the conduct of the Department
    violated article 9(4) of the ICCPR in that no substantive judicial review of the
    continued necessity of his detention was available to him’.

  2. Article 9(4) of the ICCPR provides that:

    Anyone who is deprived
    of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings
    before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the
    lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not
    lawful.

  3. Mr Cherkupalli’s submissions do not specify how the provision of
    judicial review is within the discretion of the Commonwealth, its officers or
    its agents. I conclude that the failure to provide judicial review of the
    continued necessity of Mr Cherkupalli’s detention is a consequence of the
    law and not an ‘act’ of the Commonwealth within the meaning of the
    AHRC Act.

14 Recommendations

14.1 Power to make
recommendations

  1. Where, after conducting an inquiry, the Commission finds that an act or
    practice engaged in by a respondent is inconsistent with or contrary to any
    human right, the Commission is required to serve notice on the respondent
    setting out its findings and reasons for those findings.28 The
    Commission may include in the notice any recommendation for preventing a
    repetition of the act or a continuation of the practice.29

  2. The Commission may also recommend:

    1. the payment of compensation to, or in respect of, a person who has suffered
      loss or damage; and

    2. the taking of other action to remedy or reduce the loss or damage suffered
      by a person.30

  3. In making my recommendations, I have considered the detailed submissions of
    Mr Cherkupalli. The Department has not made any submissions in reply to these
    submissions.

14.2 Compensation

(a) Consideration of
compensation

  1. There is no judicial guidance dealing with the assessment of recommendations
    for financial compensation for breaches of human rights under the AHRC Act.

  2. However, in considering the assessment of a recommendation for compensation
    under s 35 of the AHRC Act (relating to discrimination matters under Part II,
    Division 4 of the AHRC Act), the Federal Court has indicated that tort
    principles for the assessment of damages should be applied.31

  3. I am of the view that this is the appropriate approach to take to the
    present matter. For this reason, so far as is possible in the case of a
    recommendation for compensation, the object should be to place the injured party
    in the same position as if the wrong had not occurred.32

  4. The tort of false imprisonment is a more limited action than an action for
    breach of article 9(1). This is because an action for false imprisonment cannot
    succeed where there is lawful justification for the detention, whereas a breach
    of article 9(1) will be made out where it can be established that the detention
    was arbitrary, irrespective of legality.

  5. Notwithstanding this important distinction, the damages awarded in false
    imprisonment cases provide an appropriate guide for the award of compensation
    for a breach of article 9(1). This is because the damages that are available in
    false imprisonment matters provide an indication of how the courts have
    considered it appropriate to compensate for loss of liberty.

  6. The principal heads of damage for a tort of this nature are injury to
    liberty (the loss of freedom considered primarily from a non-pecuniary
    standpoint) and injury to feelings (the indignity, mental suffering, disgrace
    and humiliation, with any attendant loss of social status).33

  7. I note that the following awards of damages have been made for injury to
    liberty and provide a useful reference point in the present case.

  8. In Taylor v Ruddock,34 the Court found that the plaintiff
    was unlawfully imprisoned and awarded him $50 000 for the first period of 161
    days and $60 000 for the second period of 155 days. In awarding Mr Taylor $110
    000, the District Court took into account the fact that Mr Taylor had a long
    criminal record and that this was not his first experience of a loss of liberty.
    He was also considered to be a person of low repute who would not have felt the
    disgrace and humiliation experienced by a person of good character in similar
    circumstances.35

  9. In Goldie v Commonwealth of Australia & Ors (No 2),36 Mr Goldie was awarded damages of $22 000 for false imprisonment being wrongful
    arrest and detention under the Migration Act for four days.

  10. In Spautz v Butterworth,37 Mr Spautz was awarded $75 000
    in damages for his wrongful imprisonment as a result of failing to pay a fine.
    Mr Spautz spent 56 days in prison and his damages award reflects the length of
    his incarceration. His time in prison included seven days in solitary
    confinement.

  11. In El Masri v Commonwealth (DIAC),38 I recommended that
    the Commonwealth pay the complainant $90 000 as compensation for the 90 days he
    was arbitrarily detained in an immigration detention centre.

(b) Recommendation that
compensation be paid for loss of liberty

  1. I have found that the decisions to detain Mr Cherkupalli under s 192 of the
    Migration Act and under s 189 of the Migration Act were inconsistent with
    article 9(1) of the ICCPR. I have also found the Department’s refusal to
    grant Mr Cherkupalli a bridging visa was inconsistent with article 9(1) of the
    ICCPR.

  2. I have therefore found that Mr Cherkupalli was arbitrarily deprived of his
    liberty from 26 November 2004 to 19 April 2006; a period of 509 days.

  3. Mr Cherkupalli seeks financial compensation for his arbitrary detention in
    the amount of $1 000 per day of detention. He submits that this is consistent
    with the Commission’s decision in El Masri and assumes a lower
    daily rate than the decisions in Taylor v Ruddock, Goldie v Commonwealth and
    Spautz v Butterworth
    .

  4. I consider that the Commonwealth should pay to Mr Cherkupalli an amount of
    compensation to reflect the loss of liberty caused by his detention at VIDC but
    I have not assessed the quantum of that compensation by utilising a strict
    ‘daily rate’.

  5. Assessing compensation in such circumstances is difficult and requires a
    degree of judgment. Taking into account the guidance provided by the decisions
    referred to above I consider that payment of compensation in the amount of $450
    000 is appropriate. Mr Cherkupalli did not have a criminal record nor did he
    commit a crime by working in breach of his visa conditions. I am therefore of
    the view that Mr Cherkupalli would have felt the disgrace and humiliation
    experienced by a person of good character. I note his comments
    that:

    I am no longer credible, who would believe that I was sent to
    a detention centre for going to work for four hours. That is what I have done
    wrong, who is going to believe the government kept me detained for 17 months for
    working for four hours. They will think I have done something very bad. I have
    never been in trouble before. I was ashamed and embarrassed at finding myself in
    detention. How do I explain this to my mother and sister?39

(c) Recommendation that
compensation be paid for loss of earnings and costs

  1. Mr Cherkupalli has also submitted that his detention has had lasting impacts
    on his visa and employment prospects. He has therefore requested a
    recommendation for additional compensation in the amount of $250 000 in respect
    of his loss of earnings and further visa application costs. He submits that this
    amount is an estimate based on the following assumptions and
    calculations.

    1. That Mr Cherkupalli would have been earning a starting salary of $75 000
      per annum indexed by $5 000 from June 2006 for four years;

    2. Offset by Mr Cherkupalli’s salary earned working as a part time
      technician for 20 hours per week estimated at $25 000 per annum over four
      years;

    3. $20 000 for additional educational and visa costs for amount lost due to
      additional expenses of applying for a further student visa.

  2. I note that this estimate is imprecise. For example, the University of
    Sydney website states that:

    The starting salary for engineering and
    IT graduates is approximately $50 000 per annum or higher, and will continue to
    increase with the skills shortage.40

  3. Further, the amount of $20 000 claimed for visa and educational costs has
    not been particularised. However, I note that in Ms Jelen’s Social Work
    report of 22 April 2010, she writes that Mr Cherkupalli’s detention
    resulted in his inability to attend his University course and that he was forced
    to forfeit prepaid student fees in the amount of $57 000.

  4. In my view, the loss of earnings Mr Cherkupalli claims would have commenced
    in mid-2007, not 2006, as he would have needed to complete his studies and
    obtain a permanent residence visa before realising these earnings. This loss
    will presumably continue until he is granted a visa which allows him to work for
    longer than 20 hours per week. There is no certainty that this will happen soon
    or at all.
  1. In the absence of better particulars and opposing submissions from the
    Department, I am prepared to recommend an amount of $232 000 to represent Mr
    Cherkupalli’s loss of earnings. This amount is based on the following
    calculations:

    1. $250 000 ($50 000 x 5 years);

    2. Offset by $125 000 ($25 000 x 5 years);

    3. Additional $50 000 for likely pay rises during 5 year
      period;

    4. $57 000 for forfeited prepaid educational costs.

(d) Recommendation that
compensation be paid for future treatment costs

  1. Finally Mr Cherkupalli submits that I should recommend compensation for
    future treatment costs to address the psychological impacts of his
    detention.

  2. I note that Ms Jelen, a Social Worker in the Client Assessment &
    Referral Unit of Legal Aid NSW, reports that Mr Cherkupalli’s detention
    has had a lasting psychological impact on him. She writes that ‘Mr
    Cherkupalli readily identified his detention as a psychologically catastrophic
    life event that continues to have a harmful influence on his life’. She
    considered it was reasonable to conclude that Mr Cherkupalli suffers from
    post-traumatic stress disorder and possibly also depression.41

  3. I note that Ms Jensen refers to research undertaken by Dr Louise Newman,
    Psychiatrist, and Dr Christine Phillips, General Practitioner and Senior
    Lecturer, that concludes that ‘in the community, the incidence of PTSD and
    depression has been identified in 60-85% of individuals who have been detained
    in immigration detention centres’.42

  4. Prior to being detained, Mr Cherkupalli described his life as being
    ‘happy, I had my family, friends, I was normal. I had dreams of having a
    good job, getting married, having kids. There was satisfaction and joy in
    living.’ Mr Cherkupalli states that after being released from detention:
    ‘Inside is killing me. I have nothing, no family, no friends, no hope or
    dreams. I don’t feel’.

  5. Ms Jensen concludes that she has no doubt ‘Mr Cherkupalli’s
    experience of being detained for 17 months and then being abruptly released at
    7pm at night would have left him frightened, disoriented and highly
    anxious’. She suggests that his incarceration at VIDC resulted in an
    extreme and intense negative emotional response and loss of physical integrity.
    Ms Jensen states that ‘Mr Cherkupalli remains in a state of hopelessness
    and believes he has no real control over his life’.

  6. Mr Cherkupalli complains that he is now socially isolated owing to his
    inability to re-establish contact with his family in India due to his shame of
    being detained. Mr Cherkupalli has physiological symptoms, including headaches
    and sleeplessness. Mr Cherkupalli submits that he has no access to Medicare in
    his present visa situation and lacks the financial resources necessary to pay
    for medical or therapeutic intervention.

  7. Mr Cherkupalli has claimed an amount of $11 685 to $20 685 for appointments
    with a psychiatrist and a psychologist plus a reasonable amount for medication
    costs. I note that this amount is based on an estimate of treatment costs
    provided to the Commission on 4 February 2011.

  8. In my view, it is appropriate to recommend an additional amount of $15 000
    compensation be paid to Mr Cherkupalli representing his reasonable future
    treatment costs.

14.3 Change to policy or
operations

  1. As mentioned in the body of this report, the keeping of accurate records
    concerning decisions to detain individuals is an important element of ensuring
    the protection of the right to liberty. The lack of appropriate records in this
    case is a cause for concern.

  2. I note that in the Department’s response to the s 27 letter, it states
    that:

    Many of the Department’s processes have been improved
    since the events under examination occurred. This is particularly true of the
    records which are made when detaining suspected unlawful non-citizens.

  3. Nonetheless, I recommend that the Department ensure that its staff receive
    training in the importance of protecting the right to liberty and, in that
    context, the importance of maintaining accurate and detailed records of
    decisions made and the reasons for those decisions.

  4. I recommend that, to the extent possible, the Department provide training to
    all ‘officers’ within the meaning of the Migration Act on the proper
    exercise of the discretion to detain under s 192(1) of the Migration Act.

  5. I recommend that:

    1. detaining officers considering whether to detain a non-citizen whose visa
      has recently been cancelled be required to check carefully the record of the
      decision cancelling the visa for errors, including possible procedural errors on
      the face of the document, before making the detention decision; and

    2. officers reviewing the legality of a person’s detention be required to
      pay particular attention to the record of the visa cancellation decision for any
      potential errors on the face of the document.

  6. I recommend that regular reviews of non-citizen’s detention under s
    189 of the Migration Act include consideration of whether the non-citizen is in
    the least restrictive form of detention.

14.4 Ministerial
intervention under s 351 of the Migration Act

  1. In the circumstances of this particular case, it appears that Mr
    Cherkupalli’s detention has led to his inability to apply for a permanent
    residence visa.

  2. Mr Cherkupalli submits that his aspiration, when he came to Australia, was
    to complete his studies in engineering and obtain a permanent visa to reside in
    Australia. He submits that had he not been detained, he would have completed his
    engineering qualifications by mid 2007 and would have had sufficient points to
    qualify for permanent residency ‘Skilled Independent Visa – subclass
    136 visa’ at that time.43

  3. However, Mr Cherkupalli submits that he was unable to complete his studies
    prior to his 30th birthday due to not being released from detention until 19
    April 2006.

  4. Further, the law changed on 1 September 2007 and Mr Cherkupalli does not now
    meet the criteria for a skilled independent visa under the current Migration
    Regulations.44

  5. On 31 May 2011, Mr Cherkupalli applied for the second time for a ministerial
    intervention under s 351 of the Migration Act. On 26 September 2010, the
    solicitor acting for Mr Cherkupalli informed the Commission that the Minister
    has declined to exercise his powers under s 351 of the Migration Act.

  6. Section 351 of the Migration Act provides the Minister with a discretion to
    substitute for a decision of the Tribunal another more favourable decision
    regardless of whether the Tribunal had the power to make that other decision. In
    exercising this power, the Minister is not bound by certain provisions of the
    Migration Act.

  7. The current guidelines on the exercise of ministerial powers under s 351 are
    found in the Procedures Advice Manual 3 which states:

    The public
    interest may be served through the Australian Government responding with care
    and compassion where an individual’s situation involves unique or
    exceptional circumstances.

  1. The ministerial guidelines include the following relevant factors for
    assessing whether a case involves ‘unique or exceptional
    circumstances’:

    1. circumstances that may bring Australia’s obligations under the ICCPR
      into consideration;

    2. compassionate circumstances regarding the psychological state of the person
      such that a failure to recognise them would result in irreparable harm and
      continuing hardship to the person.

  2. In my view, Mr Cherkupalli’s situation involves ‘unique or
    exceptional circumstances’ in light of my findings that the Department has
    acted inconsistently with Mr Cherkupalli’s human rights.

  3. I am also satisfied that Mr Cherkupalli’s detention resulted in his
    failing to generate sufficient points to apply for a permanent visa in
    mid-2007.

  4. I therefore recommend that the Minister reconsider Mr Cherkupalli’s
    application under s 351 of the Migration Act in light of my above findings and
    in particular, my finding that the cancellation of his bridging visa was not
    authorised by s 119 to s 121 of the Migration Act.

  5. The intent of this recommendation is to place Mr Cherkupalli into the
    position he would have been in had he not been detained by the Department but
    rather had completed his studies and applied for a permanent residence visa in
    mid-2007 under the law as it was prior to the changes effected on 1 September
    2007.

14.5 Apology

  1. In addition to the above recommendations, I consider that it is appropriate
    that the Commonwealth provide a formal written apology to Mr Cherkupalli for the
    breaches of his right to liberty identified in this report. Apologies are
    important remedies for breaches of human rights. They, at least to some extent,
    alleviate the suffering of those who have been
    wronged.45

15 Department’s
response to the recommendations

  1. On 6 October 2011, I provided a Notice under s 29(2)(a) of the AHRC Act
    outlining my findings and recommendations in relation to the complaint made by
    Mr Cherkupalli.
  1. By letter dated 31 October 2011 the Department provided the following
    response to my findings and recommendations:

    AHRC
    recommendation: The Commonwealth pay financial compensation to Mr Cherkupalli in
    the sum of $597,000.

    DIAC’s response: Not agreed at this stage. The Department notes the
    President’s recommendation with regards to compensation payable to Mr
    Cherkupalli. Mr Cherkupalli has a separate ongoing compensation claim in the
    Supreme Court of New South Wales concerning the substance of the complaint. The
    recommendation will be considered in light of that litigation.

    AHRC recommendation: The Department ensure that its staff receive
    training in the importance of protecting the right to liberty and, in that
    context, the importance of maintaining accurate and detailed records of
    decisions made and the reasons for those decisions.

    DIAC’s response: Agreed. The Global Learning and Change Branch in DIAC
    provides core and foundation training which Is available to all staff. Some of
    the learning products which are relevant are:

    Australia’s Legal
    System
    Making a Decision
    Legend.

    Role-specific training is also delivered for DIAC officers who carry out
    roles in the following areas:

    Visa and Migration
    Border Management
    Visa Compliance and Status Resolution (CSR)
    Onshore Detention Network and Offshore asylum seeker management roles.

    The CSR Basics program and the Entry Officer Training course include a
    module, Module 10 Cancellations Process, which is designed to provide
    participants with an introduction to the legislation, policy and procedures that
    govern the cancellation of temporary and substantive visas. Staff in all CSR
    roles must attend this training.

    This module covers the topic of ‘Responding to a NOICC’ (see p.
    49 heading 3.2.4 of ‘Mod 10 — PG Cancellation Processes) which is
    attached. In addition, staff in most DIAC roles who have visa cancellations as a
    part of their duties, continue on to undertake further Cancellations training
    delivered by staff from the Compliance Policy Section. This training consists of
    a further 1-2 days face-to-face training.

    AHRC recommendation: To the extent possible, the Department provide
    training to all ‘officers’ within the meaning of the Migration Act
    on the proper exercise of the discretion to detain under s 192(1) of the
    Migration Act.

    DIAC’s response: Agreed. The Compliance Field Visits (CFV) training
    course is a Certificate IV in Government (Statutory Compliance), with Australian
    Forensic Services (AFS) providing accreditation.

    DIAC’s CFV training course is designed to introduce a range of standard
    practices and equipment for DIAC Compliance officers to learn to use and adopt
    in support of Compliance related activities. Module 18 of the CFV training
    course covers the various powers of detention under the Migration Act 1958 (the
    Migration Act) as well as the differences between those powers.

    The training directly related to s.192 of the Migration Act (delivered and
    facilitated by Compliance Policy) is Module 18D – Questioning and
    Suspected UNC and detaining a UNC – Immigration Detention s.192 –
    which is also attached.

    Participants are assessed by Compliance Policy on their ability to
    demonstrate a knowledge of s.192 of the Migration Act. The assessment method is
    that participants must satisfactorily complete the specified individual and
    group activities in Module 18D – Questioning and-Suspected UNC and
    detaining a UNC – Immigration Detention s.192 – as well as
    demonstrate their ability to apply the legislation to practical scenarios. This
    is assessed by Compliance Policy and AFS. The workbook is attached.

    AHRC recommendation: Detaining officers considering whether to detain a
    non-citizen whose visa has recently been cancelled be required to check
    carefully the record of the decision cancelling the visa for errors, including
    possible procedural errors on the face of the document, before making the
    detention decision.

    Officers reviewing the legality of a person’s detention be
    required to pay particular attention to the record of the visa cancellation
    decision for any potential errors on the face of the document.

    DIAC’s response: Agreed. The ‘Mod 10 — PG Cancellation
    Procedures’ states that:

    ‘Throughout all of the steps in the visa cancelling process, attention
    to detail is essential. It is critical to pay attention to factors such as
    identifying the correct person and the correct address and specifying the exact
    visa which is to be cancelled. Accurate record keeping is also essential to
    ensure data integrity and maintain an evidence based and transparent decision
    process.’

    Sections 3.1 and 3.2 specifically address what must be considered prior to
    any visa cancellation as well as the necessary steps to complete.

    AHRC recommendation: Regular reviews of a non-citizen’s detention
    under s.189 and s.190 of the Migration Act include consideration of whether the
    non-citizen is in the least restrictive form of detention.

    DIAC’s response: The Control Framework for Detention Related Decision
    Making specifies how DIAC uses its business processes, people and systems to
    mitigate the risk of a person:

    being detained unlawfully;
    being kept in an
    inappropriate place of detention;
    being detained for longer than necessary;
    or
    not being managed to a timely immigration outcome.

    The Control Framework was initially implemented at the end of 2006. It
    consisted of 17 identified decision points in the compliance pathway —
    referred to as Mandatory Control Points (MCPs) —which represent a
    significant level of risk to decision makers, clients, the department and other
    stakeholders.

    Of the 17 identified MCPs, 10 were implemented and were embedded within the
    Compliance, Case Management, Detention and Settlement (CCMDS) Portal to achieve
    consistency of decision making, managerial oversight, and a durable, reviewable
    and accessible record.

    The ‘Control Framework for Detention Related Decision Making’ has
    the full details of DIAC’s processes in this area and is attached.

    AHRC recommendation: The Minister re-consider Mr Cherkupalli’s
    application under s.351 of the Migration Act in light of my above findings and
    in particular, my finding that the cancellation of Mr Cherkupalli’s BVC
    was not authorised by ss119-121 of the Migration Act.

    DIAC’s response: Not agreed at this stage. When the Minister considered
    Mr Cherkupalli’s request for Ministerial Intervention on 12 September
    2011, he was aware of the preliminary views of the AHRC. The Minister decided
    not to intervene in this case.

    The Minister has specified in his guidelines that he does not wish to
    consider repeat requests unless the Department is satisfied that there has been
    a significant change in circumstances, or new and substantive claims involving
    unique or exceptional circumstances.

    On the information available, the Department is not satisfied that Mr
    Cherkupalli’s circumstances have changed or that there is any new
    information that would bring his case within the ambit of the Minister’s
    guidelines, or otherwise warranting a repeat referral to the Minister. As such,
    the Department does not have grounds to initiate a repeat request to the
    Minister on behalf of the client.

    Nevertheless, if there is new information or a change in circumstances, Mr
    Cherkupalli or his authorised representative could lodge a further request for
    Ministerial Intervention. Any such request would be processed in accordance to
    the Minister’s guidelines.

    AHRC recommendation: The Commonwealth provide a formal written apology
    to Mr Cherkupalli for the breaches of his human rights identified in this
    report.

    DIAC’s response: Not agreed at this stage. The Department notes the
    President’s recommendation to provide a formal written apology to Mr
    Cherkupalli. The Department will consider this recommendation in light of
    ongoing litigation involving Mr Cherkupalli.

  2. I report accordingly to the Attorney-General.

Catherine Branson
President

Australian Human Rights Commission

March 2012

Appendix 1:
Chronology

Date
Action
30 July 2003
Arrived on offshore subclass 574 (Postgraduate Research Sector) visa
(‘no work’ condition)
6 August 2003
Granted subclass 574 visa onshore (work limitation condition)
13 August 2004
Subclass 574 visa expired
9 September 2004
Applied for student visa onshore and was granted Bridging Visa C with
condition 8101 (no work)
26 November 2004
Bridging Visa C cancelled under s 116(1)(b) of the Migration Act for breach
of ‘no work’ condition and detained under s 189 of the Migration Act
at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VIDC)
29 November 2004
Applied for bridging visa
1 December 2004
DIAC refuses application for bridging visa
2 December 2004
Application lodged with Migration Review Tribunal (MRT) to review refusal
to grant bridging visa
13 December 2004
MRT affirms DIAC’s decision to refuse bridging visa
22 December 2004
Student visa application refused by DIAC due to non-compliance with
‘no work’ condition of Bridging Visa C
4 January 2005
Lodged application for review of student visa refusal with MRT but the fee
waiver was refused and the application for review was deemed ineligible
13 January 2005
Application for bridging visa lodged
17 January 2005
DIAC refuses bridging visa (DIAC claimed no amount of security would
provide assurance of compliance with visa conditions)
19 January 2005
Application to review decision to refuse bridging visa lodged with
MRT
31 January 2005
MRT affirms DIAC’s decision to refuse bridging visa
31 March 2005
MRT decision - refusal of application to review student visa refusal on the
basis that application ineligible - complainant did not pay application fee and
application for fee waiver refused
25 May 2005
Letter to Minister Vanstone seeking Ministerial Intervention under s 351 of
the Migration Act
20 June 2005
Applied for bridging visa - DIAC asked for $10 000 security - application
withdrawn because complainant could not afford
8 July 2005
Applied for bridging visa - DIAC asked for $10 000 security - application
withdrawn because complainant could not afford
14 July 2005
Applied for bridging visa - DIAC asked for $10 000 security - application
withdrawn because complainant could not afford
19 August 2005
Applied for bridging visa - DIAC asked for $8 000 security - application
withdrawn because complainant could not afford
30 August 2005
DIAC informs Minister will not exercise power under s 351 of the Migration
Act
2 September 2005
Application for judicial review in Federal Magistrates Court (FMC) of MRT
decision dated 31 March 2005
19 September 2005
Applied for bridging visa - DIAC asked for $8 000 bond - application
withdrawn because complainant could not afford
29 September 2005
Applied for bridging visa - DIAC asked for $8 000 bond - application
withdrawn because complainant could not afford
5 October 2005
Applied for bridging visa - DIAC asked for $8 000 bond - application
withdrawn because complainant could not afford
18 November 2005
Minister withdrew from FMC proceedings regarding the student visa refusal
(failure to provide opportunity to respond to the refusal) - decision remitted
by consent to DIAC for reconsideration
6 February 2006
DIAC sent letter seeking comments regarding substantial non-compliance with
conditions of Bridging Visa C
20 February 2006
Letter to DIAC responding to letter seeking comments
19 April 2006
Applied for bridging visa - granted and released from VIDC
29 October 2007
Student visa subclass TU 573 granted
April 2009
Completed Master of Engineering Studies

  1. Note the sum of $597 000 was reported in the summary of the Notice under s
    29 of the AHRC Act. The correct total of the calculations set out in part 14 of
    the Notice and this Report is $697 000.
  2. Secretary, Department of Defence v HREOC, Burgess & Ors (‘Burgess’) (1997) 78 FCR 208.
  3. Email from Kenneth Truelsen of the Department to Rebecca Gieng of the
    Commission, dated 17 February 2010.
  4. Al Kateb v Godwin (2004) 219 CLR 562.
  5. Ruddock v Taylor (2005) 222 CLR 612, 622.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid, 622.
  8. Ibid, 628.
  9. Ibid, McHugh and Kirby JJ dissented at 651. McHugh J found that a mistaken
    belief that a visa had been lawfully cancelled is a mistake of law, and
    therefore cannot be a reasonable suspicion within the meaning of s 189. Kirby J
    agreed. Further, he stated that basic principles of statutory construction are
    protective of fundamental rights and freedoms and dictate that a section which
    purports to deprive a person of his or her liberty must be strictly construed.
    See also Re Bolten; Ex parte Beane (1987) 162 CLR 514, 523.
  10. [2002] FCA 433.
  11. Ibid, [17] (Gray and Lee JJ).
  12. Ibid, [6] (Gray and Lee JJ).
  13. Ibid, [6] (Gray and Lee JJ).
  14. Mr Cherkupalli’s submissions, 21 December 2010, 10 [46].
  15. See Legal Opinion prepared by the Australian Government Solicitor for
    Department of Immigration, Multiculturalism and Indigenous Affairs, reported in
    the Inquiry into the Circumstances of the Immigration Detention of Cornelia
    Rau,
    6 July 2005, 23; Procedure Advice Manual, National Compliance
    Operational Instructions – Powers to detain, [PA 135.3], Overview s 189, Maintaining Reasonable Suspicion.
  16. This is consistent with my view in El Masri v Commonwealth (DIAC)
    [2009] AusHRC 41.
  17. Email from Kenneth Truelsen of the Department to Prabha Nandagopal of the
    Commission, 4 February 2011.
  18. Migration Act 1958 (Cth), s 5.
  19. Migration Amendment (Detention Arrangements) Act 2005 (Cth).
  20. Mr Cherkupalli’s submissions, 21 December 2010, [14].
  21. Mr Cherkupalli’s submissions, 21 December 2010, [59] and letters
    referred to therein.
  22. The Department concedes that bridging visas were available to Mr
    Cherkupalli throughout his detention. I also note that at various points
    throughout Mr Cherkupalli’s detention, he was ‘awaiting a visa
    determination’ and therefore met the relevant precondition for the grant
    of a bridging visa under s 73 of the Migration Act.
  23. See Migration Regulations 1994, sub regulations 050.223 and 050.224, as
    they then were.
  24. Email from Kenneth Truelsen of the Department to Prabha Nandagopal of the
    Commission, 4 February 2011.
  25. Mr Cherkupalli’s submissions, 21 December 2010, 15 [59].
  26. For example, condition 8402 provides that the holder must report (a) within
    5 working days of grant to an office of immigration; and (b) to that office on
    the first working day of every week after reporting under paragraph (a).
  27. See El Masri v Commonwealth (DIAC) [2009] AusHRC 41.
  28. AHRC Act, s 29(2)(a).
  29. AHRC Act, s 29(2)(b).
  30. AHRC Act, s 29(2)(c).
  31. Peacock v The Commonwealth (2000) 104 FCR 464, 483 (Wilcox J).
  32. See Hall v A&A Sheiban Pty Limited (1989) 20 FCR 217, 239
    (Lockhart J).
  33. Cassell & Co Ltd v Broome (1972) AC 1027, 1124; Spautz v
    Butterworth & Anor
    (1996) 41 NSWLR 1 (Clarke JA); Vignoli v Sydney
    Harbour Casino
    [1999] NSWSC 1113 (22 November 1999), [87].
  34. Taylor v Ruddock (unreported, 18 December 2002, NSW District Court
    (Murrell DCJ)).
  35. Taylor v Ruddock (unreported, 18 December 2002, NSW District Court
    (Murrell DCJ)), [140]. On appeal, the Court of Appeal of New South Wales
    considered that the award was low but in the acceptable range. The Court noted
    that ‘as the term of imprisonment extends the effect upon the person
    falsely imprisoned does progressively diminish’: Ruddock v Taylor [2003] NSWCA 262 [49]-[50].
  36. [2004] FCA 156.
  37. (1996) 41 NSWLR 1 (Clarke JA).
  38. Above note 27, [376].
  39. Ms Mary Jelen, Social Work Consultant, Client Assessment & Referral
    Unit, Legal Aid NSW, Social Work Report, 22 April 2010, 5.
  40. Engineering & Information Technology course information, University of
    Sydney, at http://www.eng.usdy.edu.au/apply/courses.html, viewed 14 September
    2011.
  41. Ms Mary Jelen, Social Work Consultant, Client Assessment & Referral
    Unit, Legal Aid NSW, Social Work Report, 22 April 2010, 6-7.
  42. Ibid, 7.
  43. Mr Cherkupalli’s submissions, 21 December 2010, 19 [17].
  44. Ibid.
  45. S Shelton, Remedies in International Human Rights Law (2000),
    151.