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Iranian fears persecution, challenges deportation

An Armenian Christian who was prosecuted for overstaying beyond his visa by the West Bengal police has approached the Supreme Court challenging the Calcutta High Court order of deporting him to Iran, reports Bhadra Sinha.

delhi Updated: Aug 25, 2007 04:07 IST
Bhadra Sinha

An Armenian Christian who was prosecuted for overstaying beyond his visa by the West Bengal police has approached the Supreme Court challenging the Calcutta High Court order of deporting him to Iran.

Fred Babakhanian, who married an Indian girl under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, has expressed apprehensions about returning to his native country Iran on the ground that Armenian Christians are being persecuted there.

Babakhanian, whose visa expired in 2001, does not have a valid passport. He has urged the Supreme Court to decide whether a foreigner can be deprived of protection under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution that entitles right to life to every person. He has challenged the high court order of deporting him on the ground that the competent authority, that is the Union of India, has not passed any deportation order against Babakhanian even though he has been in jail since 2001 despite serving his two-year sentence under the Foreigners Act.

Although the bench of Justice SH Kapadia and Justice Markandeya Katju ordered Babkhanian's release on parole and asked the West Bengal government to return his expired passport, on Friday it expressed reservations of passing a judicial order to declare Babakhanian a refugee.

The bench said as India had not signed the refugee convention, it cannot grant refugee status to Babakhanian. However, the court said it would definitely explore the possibility of whether the petitioner's life is in danger in Iran and if he can get protection under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

The bench said it would like to take the assistance of UNHCR and the Union of India on Babkhanian's status. Meanwhile, the petitioner has been asked to apply to his embassy in Delhi for an extension of his passport.

Babakhanian had come to India in 1996 to study in Armenian College in West Bengal. In 2001, the State police prosecuted him for overstaying. Although the two-year sentence ended in 2003, Babkhanian continued to be incarcerated.