Don't Want To Become World's Refugee Capital: Top Court Told On Rohingya

The Supreme Court had rejected the central government's assertion that the judges should leave the decision on the fate of Rohingya refugees to the executive.

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Don't Want To Become World's Refugee Capital: Top Court Told On Rohingya

A petition was filed in the Supreme Court last year against the policy to deport Rohingya refugees.

NEW DELHI: The centre doesn't want India to become the refugee capital of the world, the government's senior law officer told the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The law officer Tushar Mehta's assertion was a response to the petitioners alleging that border guards in the eastern part of the country, armed with stun guns and chilly spray, were pushing back the refugees right at the border. Prashant Bhushan, who was supported by other lawyers intervening in this case, argued that India should show the "minimum humanitarian morality" to Rohingya refugees at the border and not shoo them away.

Mr Mehta, the senior law officer said he would need to check with the government on the specifics pointed by the petitioners on the situation along the border. But at a general level, the government didn't want the country to end up as the world's refugee capital "otherwise people from every other country will flood our country".

"This is not a matter on which we can show any leniency," Mr Mehta told a bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

The top court was hearing a case filed by Rohingya refugees to stop the government from sending back refugees from Myanmar's Rakhine State.

Senior lawyer Rajeev Dhavan, who had intervened in this case, supported Mr Bhushan's contention that "if somebody comes to your border and says, I am a refugee, he cannot be blindly pushed back".

It has to be determined whether he or she is a refugee, Mr Dhavan said, arguing that even as the government deals with this situation diplomatically, "the court should also decide on its own".

Justice DY Chandrachud said the court did acknowledge the humanitarian aspects in Mr Bhushan's submissions.

But, he asked, did the judicial standards of India that apply to refugees on Indian soil, "also apply to those attempting to enter the country".

Hearing the case last year, the Supreme Court had rejected the central government's assertion that the judges should leave the decision on the fate of Rohingya refugees to the executive. Chief Justice Misra had then called the  Rohingya situation in Myanmar a "huge humanitarian crisis". But the court had stopped short of freezing the centre's plan to expel the refugees after the government pleaded that a stay order could have international ramifications.

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Lakhs of Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority in the Buddhist-majority Rakhine state, have fled Myanmar after August when a fresh security crackdown on Rohingya insurgent groups targetted the civilian population as well. Most of the refugees landed in Bangladesh.

The United Nations refugee agency has about 16,000 people registered with them but the government told parliament recently that there could be three times as many.

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