The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a plea against the Centre’s move to deport illegal Rohingya Muslims who have entered India after fleeing ethnic violence in Myanmar. A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, before whom the matter was mentioned by Advocate Prashant Bhushan, said it will hear the plea on September 4. Bhushan told the court that some ministers had made statements that Rohingyas will be sent out of the country. If they are deported, it will put their lives in danger, he said.
The plea, filed by two Rohingya immigrants, Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, claimed they had taken refuge in India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination, violence and bloodshed against the community in that country. “Proposed deportation is contrary to the constitutional protections of Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) and Article 51(c) of the Constitution of India, which provides equal rights and liberty to every person,” the petition said.
It added that “this act (deportation) would also be in contradiction with the Principle of Non-Refoulement, which has been widely recognised as a principle of Customary International Law”. The Principle of Non-Refoulement prohibits states from sending back refugees to a country where their life may be in danger. The rule is applied to states, which are parties of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) convention. India is not a signatory to the convention. The petition said “though India has not ratified the UNHCR Convention on Refugees, it has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”.
“Further, India is also a signatory to the Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearances, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” it said, adding that all these lay down the Principle of Non-Refoulement. It referred to India’s tradition of welcoming refugees and said “considering the mass massacre of the Rohingya community in their home country, India must continue to accord refuge to the Rohingya population residing in India and refrain from deporting them.”
The petitioners sought a direction that Rohingyas be provided “basic amenities to ensure that they can live in human conditions as required by international law”. On August 9, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had said in Parliament that over 14,000 Rohingyas, registered with the UNHCR, were staying in India while around 40,000 Rohingyas were staying illegally.
The Rohingyas, who fled to India after violence in the Western Rakhine State of Myanmar, have settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan. In a recent communication to all states, the Ministry of Home Affairs, citing terror threat, asked state governments to set up a task force at district level to identify and deport foreign nationals who were staying illegally.