Irish HC Questions India's Handling of Mob Violence While Hearing Mumbai Meat Trader's Asylum Plea

A Mumbai meat trader's asylum case in Ireland, currently awaiting reconsideration, serves as an illustration of how judicial systems in Western democracies are responding to allegations of “religious persecutions at the hands of Hindu nationalists” in India.

London: In a significant development, a wealthy meat trader from Mumbai has sought asylum in Ireland, citing attacks and threats from cow vigilantes in India. The case, which came to light through a judgment issued by the High Court of Ireland in 2022, highlights the growing concern over incidents of mob violence in India and the response of the state machinery, reports Newslaundry.

According to the court order, the identity of the individual in question has not been disclosed as it is the rule for people applying for international protection. In 2017, he was attacked by unknown people.

While the International Protection Appeals Tribunal initially denied the asylum request, Justice Siobhan Phelan overturned this decision and remanded it for reconsideration by a new tribunal member.

Abbey Law, the legal firm representing the meat trader, told Newslaundry that the “reconsideration has not yet taken place”.

While the final decision is still pending, it’s worth noting that asylum cases originating from India are uncommon. Nevertheless, the court’s insights in this specific case serve as a valuable guide to how Western democracies’ legal systems are grappling with allegations of “religious persecution by Hindu nationalists” in India. Even though the final decision remains pending, cases of asylum from India are relatively rare. However, the court’s observations in this particular instance, along with its historical context, offer a blueprint for understanding how judicial systems in Western democracies are responding to allegations of “religious persecutions at the hands of Hindu nationalists” in India.

In Ireland, the International Protection Office (IPO) evaluates applications for international protection, considering cases from both conflict-ridden and ostensibly safe countries. In 2019, the IPO initially denied asylum to the Indian trader, asserting that state protection was available in India. Subsequent appeals led to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) acknowledging the lack of state protection and police reluctance to prosecute his attackers but arguing that the trader could relocate within India. However, a judicial review in 2020 quashed the “internal protection alternative” finding. During reconsideration, the trader’s efforts to change his profession were viewed skeptically by the IPAT, which ultimately upheld the internal protection alternative in March 2021.

The Mumbai meat trader, dissatisfied with the second ruling from IPAT, took his case back to the High Court of Ireland, where Justice Burns approved a judicial review in April 2021. Justice Burns recognised the case’s merit and remitted it to the IPAT for reconsideration. However, this time, both the IPAT and the Ministry of Justice in Ireland opposed the court’s decision, arguing that there was no need to change the “internal protection alternative” finding. Subsequently, Justice Siobhan Phelan presided over the case and considered arguments from the trader, the IPAT, and the Ministry of Justice. In her deliberation, she referred to a similar asylum case involving another Mumbai meat trader in Canada and stressed the importance of assessing the cumulative nature of persecution against Muslims in India, implying a need to determine whether persecution was widespread or localised in the country.

This kind of asylum seeking seems to be the first case in Europe. However, in 2018, a muslim beef trader from Mumbai was granted refugee status in Canada noting that there was a “subjective fear of persecution in India as a Muslim” and as someone involved in the industry in India.

At the very first, Justice Phelan pointed out various shortcomings in the IPAT’s decision. “It is my view that the existence of cow vigilantism throughout India needed to be considered cumulatively with the other evidence of discriminatory or persecutory treatment of Muslims in assessing whether it was reasonable to expect the applicant and his family to relocate to the identified areas.”

“The IPAT decision does not demonstrate that the IPAT approached the question of whether alternative protection was reasonably available by considering whether the applicant had decided to cease work or change profession solely in order to avoid further incidents of persecution and thereafter assessing whether the need to change work could in itself, and on the facts of this case, potentially constitute persecution before refusing protection on the basis of a reasoned conclusion that the change of profession in the event of a return to a different part of India did not constitute persecution. Through its failure to conduct this analysis, I am satisfied that the IPAT has erred in law in its identification of the legal test to be applied in deciding that a reasonable internal protection alternative is available to the applicant.”

The judge also found it “concerning” that the IPAT, while proposing the internal protection alternative, failed to assess the risk for Muslims associated with beef trade in India. “I am confirmed in my conclusion that the decision is unsustainable in law,” she concluded.