New Delhi, Apr 8 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today said that 150 Rohingya refugees in Jammu and Kashmir can only be deported to Myanmar, after following the due process of law.
Disposed of a plea seeking protection of 150 Rohingya refugees in Jammu and Kashmir, The Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian made it clear that no refugee would be deported to Myanmar, unless the proper procedure was followed.
The petition, filed by Rohingya refugee Mohammad Salimullah through Advocate Prashant Bhushan, sought a direction to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to expeditiously grant refugee identification cards to Rohingyas housed at informal camps through the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
The plea prayed for the protection of the refugees’ rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21, read with Article 51(c) of the Constitution. It was stated that the Rohingyas have taken refuge in India, after escaping widespread violence and discrimination against their community in Myanmar.
The Central government, through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, had opposed the plea, contesting the claim of the petitioner that they were refugees.
“They are not refugees at all. This is the second round of litigation. This petitioner had filed an application (before) and it was dismissed,” Mr Mehta said, adding that they were illegal immigrants, who will be deported as per the procedure established by law.
“They are illegal immigrants. We are always in touch with the Myanmar government and if they confirm, then they can be deported,” Mr Mehta said.
The petitioner, however, argued that the Union government should refrain from implementing any orders on deporting the Rohingya refugees, who have been detained in Jammu.
“There is a military government in Myanmar now. Their life is under threat,” Mr Bhushan said during the mentioning of the case earlier, while requesting for an urgent hearing of the plea.
“The mere fact that a country responsible for their fleeing wants them back, cannot be a ground to send them back, when we know they will subjected to risk. This is the principle of refoulement,” Mr Bhushan submitted.
A Jammu-based NGO, Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice, had also filed an application before the Supreme Court, stating that the plea to stop the Rohingya deportation must not be entertained, since the settlement of the Rohingyas in Jammu was “a part of a larger design” and an attempt to destabilise the country.
The application by the NGO, filed through Advocate Rajeev M Roy, stated that the settlement of illegal immigrants in Jammu “is a part of a nefarious and sinister design to change the delicate demography of the tense and internationally sensitive region of Jammu and Kashmir, in order to further certain vested interests”.
The top court had also refused to hear the UN Special Rapporteur in the case, after the Centre expressed strong reservations against it. The Court had referred to the objection raised by Senior Counsel Harish Salve, who was appearing on behalf of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. ILNS/SNG/RJ