New Delhi: The Union government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the issue regarding deportation of Rohingyas from Myanmar was better left to be decided diplomatically by the executive.
This was opposed by Prashant Bhushan, counsel for one of the petitioners, who said the Border Security Force (BSF) was using grenades and chilli powder to push back refugees who were trying to enter the country. The court should be allowed to hear the matter even as the government exercises its constitutional power to decide on the issue, he added.
Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said it could not allow the country to be flooded by allowing anybody to enter it. “Don’t want India to become a refugee capital," Mehta remarked.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), through counsel Gopal Subramanium said that refugees had a right to approach the court for securing their basic rights such as education and the court should hear them.
The Centre then requested the bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra to defer the matter to a later date.
An estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims, including the petitioners, live in India and are registered with the UN refugee agency in India.
Citing serious ramifications on national security, the Centre had told the apex court in September that it should not interfere and let it take a decision under a “fair and just procedure" on the issue of deportation of Rohingyas, many of whom have 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 had 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 petition was 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 contradiction with 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 matter will be heard next on 7 March.