‘Time for India to come with law to protect refugees'

Terming the Supreme Court verdict on Rohingyas an aberration, former union law minister Ashwani Kumar and advocate Prashant Bhushan said it was high time India came up with a law to protect refugees, including economic migrants.

They were speaking at a symposium on “The Right-Sovereignty Dichotomy: Exploring migration, refuge, and citizenship” organised by the National Law School of India Review.

Kumar said the Supreme Court’s refusal to stay deportation of seven Rohingya migrants “spoils the court’s record as the protector of human rights.”

“The Supreme Court, through an expansive interpretation, has (earlier) placed right to dignity at the pinnacle in the hierarchy of human rights. Right to dignity is fundamental to every individual and has nothing to do with citizenship,” he said, adding that the verdict on deportation went against that spirit.

He said the Centre’s arguments that Rohingyas pose security threat and financial strain do not hold water. “A vast majority of Rohingyas are aged, sick and comprise women and children. Being sixth largest economy of the world, we are counting pennies to escape an humanitarian and constitutional obligation that the Indian state has taken upon itself under Article 21,” he said.

Bhushan, who represented the Rohingya petitioners, said issue of refugees is yet to be seen from the humanitarian perspective.

“We should put pressure on the government to sign the United Nations refugee convention. Efforts should be made to share the economic burden so that the third world, which caters to major part of refugees, gets UN aid,” he said. The senior advocate further stressed the need to recognise economic refugees.

“They may not be fleeing persecution but they are effectively running away from conditions which will eventually condemn them to death,” he said.

Noting that the Supreme Court can use Article 21 to fill gaps in the law for protection of refugees, Ashwani Kumar said it was the responsibility of Parliament to bring in a law which provides better protection than the UN’s convention.

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‘Time for India to come with law to protect refugees'

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