The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Union government to respond to a plea by a group of Rohingya Muslims that security forces were blocking their entry into the country from Myanmar.
A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to reply within four weeks to the plea moved by advocate Prashant Bhushan. Mehta, for his part, contended that if the arguments were accepted, India would become the refugee capital of the world. The court posted the matter for consideration on March 7
Bhushan, along with senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, contended the BSF personnel were pushing back Rohingya Muslims at the borders using "chilli and stun grenades", though they faced persecution in Myanmar.
Pushbacks are illegal because they violate the non-derogable customary international law norm of non-refoulement, they contended.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, however, said the principle of non-refoulement would apply to those living here and not to those who wanted to enter the country.
Mehta submitted that the government was doing its bit and the court should not intervene in the matter.
Dhavan contended that the government's claim that it has absolute discretion in the matter is totally against the law and the rights of refugees as declared by international conventions and various decisions of the court.
Bar on Muslims?
Bhushan also referred to a notification issued by the Centre, saying all the communities except Muslims, who faced persecution in their country were welcome to come here. Mehta opposed the contention, saying there was no such notification "welcoming" refugees. The bench agreed with Mehta's submission.
National Human Rights Commission, represented by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, supported the plea against deportation of Rohingyas staying in the country. A plea related to their very poor living conditions in Delhi and Haryana was raised by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves.
The court asked the counsel to share his status report with Mehta to enable him to file a response. The court posted it for consideration on March 12.