The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought the Centre’s response to a plea which alleged that Rohingya refugees who wanted to enter India after fleeing persecution in Myanmar were being “pushed back” at the border by the BSF in violation of the UN principle of non-refoulement.
The Centre opposed the plea and said the matter was best left to the executive.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said it will hear what the government has to say on the matter.
Appearing for the applicants, two Rohingya refugees who are in camps in India, advocate Prashant Bhushan said the BSF had adopted a policy called “non-engagement” to prevent the influx of more refugees from Myanmar.
“By this policy, the BSF does not arrest the Rohingya trying to enter India, but they push them back and do not allow them to pass through the border. Indian security forces push back Rohingya refugees using chilli and stun grenades,” he said.
This was illegal, Bhushan contended, as this was contrary to the international principle of non-refoulement which states that refugees or asylum seekers shall not be forced to return to a country in which they are liable to be persecuted.
The court wondered if the rule was applicable to those trying to get into the country and whether such issues were amenable to judicial review. “Applying to people already here is understandable. But can it be applied to people on the border too,” asked Justice Chandrachud.
Bhushan replied that it applied to both situations.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the National Human Rights Commission, however, said the principle would apply only to those already inside the country.
Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, contested the plea saying that “India will be flooded” with refugees. “We don’t want India to become the refugee capital of the world,” he said, adding that efforts were on at the diplomatic level to resolve the crisis.
Mehta submitted that it was better if the matter was left to the executive to find a solution. “These are better left to be decided diplomatically at the executive level.”
The two applicants earlier filed a petition demanding that Rohingya refugees who had entered India following the crackdown in Rakhine should not be deported.
The court will take up the matter next on March 7.