New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to file a comprehensive report with details of the basic amenities being provided to Rohingya refugees by 5 May. These would include details of facilities such as health, sanitation and drinking water being provided to the Rohingya refugees in different camps across the country.
Rajeev Dhawan, an intervenor in the case, said that the court would first have to decide whether the Rohingya fell into a special class of people or not. “We are dealing with people who have nowhere to go. They don’t have a work permit, no Aadhaar card and children cannot go to school. This is a group of people who have nobody to turn to for help, worst of the worst," Dhawan added.
The Centre said it could not discriminate between city slum dwellers and the Rohingyas living in the same settlements in provision of facilities and said that it would file a comprehensive report to the court.
This argument was opposed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, one of the petitioners against the proposed deportation, who said that human rights must apply in full vigour as far as provision of basic amenities was concerned and that this must be in line with Article 21 (right to life) under the Constitution. “The more vulnerable you are, the more protection you need," Upadhyay said.
The centre had told the top court on 31 January that the issue regarding deportation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar was better left to be decided by the executive.
Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta said it could not allow the country to be flooded—by allowing anybody to enter it and become a refugee capital. “Don’t want India to become a refugee capital," Mehta remarked.
An estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims, including the petitioners, live in India and are registered with the UN refugee agency in India.
Highlighting what it called the serious ramifications on national security, the centre had told the apex court in September that it should not interfere and let the government take a decision under a “fair and just procedure" on the issue of deportation of Rohingyas, many of whom had illegally crossed borders seeking refuge from widespread violence and discrimination in their home country, Myanmar.
Citing India’s large population and its complex social, cultural and economic infrastructure, the centre said that it would take a decision keeping in mind the larger interest of the nation along with other factors such as its natural resources, requirements of the country’s population and the national security threat it may pose.
It was submitted that as a sovereign nation, its first and foremost constitutional duty towards its citizens would be to ensure that the “demographic and social structure of the country is not changed to their detriment", and that the resources of the nation are used to fulfil their fundamental rights and not diverted.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions including one filed by two Rohingya Muslims—Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir—who are currently living in India.
In a 16-page affidavit, the centre had held that the current influx of illegal Rohingya immigrants into India was a “potential threat to internal and national security" and in such a situation, the government would take a policy decision based on several parameters, diplomatic considerations and potential dangers to the nation.
It was submitted by the petitioners that the proposed deportation was contrary to constitutional protection under Article 14 (equality under law), Article 21 (right to life) and Article 51(c) of the Constitution of India.
Deportation would also be in violation of the principle of non-refoulement that prohibits deportation of refugees to a country where they face threat to their life and has been recognized under customary international law.
The case will be heard next on 9 May.