Politics

Centre Refuses to Tell Supreme Court It Won’t Deport Rohingya Refugees

“I am not making any such statements,” additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta said in the apex court.

Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy path after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 3, 2017. Credit:Reuters

Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy path after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 3, 2017. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government on Monday reportedly said in the Supreme Court that it will not give an assurance to Rohingya refugees that the government will not deport them back to Myanmar.

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, was quoted by The Hindu as saying, “I am not making any such statements” when two Rohingya people asked the apex court to draw an assurance from the government that they would not move against their community or take “coercive steps”.

The Supreme Court sought to know the stand of the government on a petition challenging its decision to deport illegal Rohingya Muslim immigrants back to Myanmar. The matter came up before a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, which asked Mehta to take instruction from the Centre on its response to the petition that has challenged the decision on various grounds, including that it violated international human right conventions.

While the bench posted the matter for September 11, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the two Rohingya refugees, wanted an assurance that during the pendency of the petition, the Centre will not take any step including deportation of the immigrants. Mehta made it clear that he was not making any statement. The bench asked the petitioner to hand over the copy of the petition and relevant documents pertaining to the matter to the law officer.

Violent attacks allegedly by Myanmarese armymen have led to an exodus of Rohingya people from the western Rakhine State to India and Bangladesh. Many of them, who had fled to India after previous violence, have settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.

The plea, filed by two Rohingya refugees Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, who are registered refugees under the United Nations High Commission for 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 the Rohingya community.

It has also sought a direction that Rohingya people 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 threats 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. The petition further said that India has traditionally been a hospitable host for refugees and displaced people, both from South Asia and across the world.

The 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 had issued a notice to the Centre over its plan to deport the Rohingya immigrants, who are residing in various parts of India.

(With PTI inputs)