‘Follow due procedure’: Supreme Court rejects plea to stall Rohingya deportation

There are close to 7,000 Rohingya refugees in Jammu & Kashmir, numbers that have increased since the late 2000s when they first arrived in the region after escaping from Myanmar, where they were facing religious persecution.
India has previously deported Rohingya refugees.(Reuters file photo)
India has previously deported Rohingya refugees.(Reuters file photo)
Published on Apr 09, 2021 05:54 AM IST
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ByUtkarsh Anand, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stop the deportation of at least 150 Rohingya refugees detained in a Jammu prison to Myanmar, noting that the right not to be deported can arise out of the fundamental right to settle in India which is available only to citizens.

Highlighting the Union government’s stand that the Rohingya posed a serious threat to the internal security of the country, the bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, also dismissed the plea to release them from the detention centre.

There are close to 7,000 Rohingya refugees in Jammu & Kashmir, numbers that have increased since the late 2000s when they first arrived in the region after escaping from Myanmar, where they were facing religious persecution. India has previously deported Rohingya refugees.

On March 6, on the instructions of the Union ministry of home affairs, the Jammu & Kashmir administration started a verification drive of the Rohingya, and moved some of them to a holding centre, pending their potential deportation.

“It is true that the rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 (right to equality and life) are available to all persons who may or may not be citizens. But the right not to be deported, is ancillary or concomitant to the right to reside or settle in any part of the territory of India guaranteed under Article 19(1)(e),” said the bench that included justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

The bench also pointed out that India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, 1951 and thus, the Centre has emphasised that there was no obligation on it to follow the principle of ‘non-refoulment’ to restrain it from expelling a refugee who feared persecution in the home state. “Regarding the contention raised on behalf of the petitioners about the present state of affairs in Myanmar, we have to state that we cannot comment upon something happening in another country,” it added while underlining that a similar plea to stop deportation of Rohingya was rejected by the top court in 2018 as well.

The bench, however, has added a caveat that Rohingya in Jammu, on whose behalf the application was filed, “shall not be deported unless the procedure prescribed for such deportation is followed.”

Representing the Centre on March 26, solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that the procedure to deport Rohingya involved their identification and verification of their citizenship by the Myanmar government.

On the last date, the Centre opposed the plea by applicant Mohammad Salimullah while emphasising that India cannot become “the international capital of illegal immigrants”.

The government called the Rohingya “absolutely illegal immigrants” who posed “serious threats to national security” and also contended that the right to settle in India could not be asserted by illegal immigrants under the garb of the Constitution’s Article 21, which guarantees the right to life and liberty.

Mehta added the Centre has begun the process of deporting Rohingya after receiving a confirmation from the Myanmar government regarding their nationality, and that the apex court should steer clear of the “diplomatic issue” since it fell within the exclusive domain of the executive.

Representing the J&K administration, senior advocate Harish Salve had also cautioned the bench against “starting a dangerous trend” by interfering with a subject related to illegal immigrants and diplomatic relations with another country.

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Sunday, November 28, 2021