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SC to hear plea against India deporting Rohingya Muslim refugees to Myanmar

India has ratified and is a signatory to various conventions that recognise the Principle of “Non- Refoulement’, which prohibits deportation of refugees to a country where they may face threat to their lives.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2017 19:41 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India, New Delhi
Supreme Court,Rohingya Muslims,India
A woman from the Rohingya community walks through a camp in Delhi, India August 17, 2017. (REUTERS)

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear on September 4 a plea against deportation of illegal Rohingya Muslim immigrants to Myanmar on several grounds, including violation of international human rights conventions.

A bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, considered the submissions of lawyer Prashant Bhushan that the plea required urgent hearing in view of the decision of the government to send the Rohingya tribals back to their native land.

The plea, filed by two Rohingya immigrants, Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, who are registered refugees under the United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR), claimed they had taken refuge in India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination, violence and bloodshed against the community there.

“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.

“This act would also be in contradiction with the principle of ‘Non-Refoulement’, which has been widely recognised as a principle of Customary International Law,” the plea said, while seeking a direction to the government not to deport them and other members of Rohingya community.

Rohingya refugee children attend a madrasa at a camp set up for the refugees on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Wednesday, Aug. 16,2017. ( AP )

It has also sought a direction that Rohingyas be provided “basic amenities to ensure that they can live in human conditions as required by international law”.

It also said that India has ratified and is a signatory to various conventions that recognise the Principle of “Non- Refoulement’, which prohibits deportation of refugees to a country where they may face threat to their lives.

The principle of non-refoulement — or not sending back refugees to a place where they face danger — is considered part of customary international law and is binding on all states whether they have signed the Refugee Convention or not.

“Though India has not ratified the UNCHR Convention on Refugees, India 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,” the plea said, adding that all these international treaties and conventions lay down the Principle of Non-Refoulement.

The petition further said that India has traditionally been hospitable host of refugees and displaced people, both from South Asia and across the world.

A Rohingya refugee Mohammad Sirajullah displays his UNHCR card as he sits inside his shanty at a temporary shelter in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. ( AP )

“Considering the mass massacre of the Rohingya community in their home county, India must continue to accord refuge to the Rohingya population residing in India and refrain from deporting them,” it said.

Last week, government had raised “serious concern” over reports of renewed violence and attacks in Myanmar and extended its “strong” support to the Myanmarese government at this “challenging moment”.

On August 18, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued notice to the Centre over its plan to deport the Rohingya immigrants, who are residing in various parts of India.

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.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had said in Parliament on August 9 that over 14,000 Rohingyas, registered with the UNHCR, were staying in India. He had also said that around 40,000 Rohingyas were staying in India illegally.

In a communication to all states, the union home ministry had said the rise of terrorism in last few decades has become a serious concern for most nations as illegal migrants are prone to getting recruited by terrorist organisations.

It had directed the state governments to set up a task force at district level to identify and deport illegally- staying foreign nationals.

A UNHCR aid worker gathers details about the Rohingya muslim refugees from Mayanmar at a makeshift camp on World Refugee Day in the outskirts of the Indian city Jammu on June 20, 2017. ( AFP )

Rohingya community self-identify as a distinct ethnic group, with their own language and culture, and claim a long- standing connection to Rakhine State in Myanmar.

However, successive governments in Myanmar have rejected their claims and were not included in the list of recognised ethnic groups. Most Rohingyas are stateless.

The outbreak of violence against Rohingyas especially in June-October 2012, led to hundreds of cases of injury, death, destruction of property and displacement of 1,40,000 people and around 1,20,000 individuals remain in internally displaced camps in central Rakhine State.

Myanmar has one of the largest stateless populations in the world with some 10,90,000 stateless persons, predominately Rohingya in Rakhine State.

First Published: Sep 01, 2017 19:41 IST