India's top court to hear on September 18 plea of Rohingyas against deportation
September 11, 2017 | 9:25 PM
by PTI
Myanmar students protest against alleged atrocities faced by Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, outside the Myanmar Embassy in New Delhi, September 9, 2017. Photo - PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday fixed September 18 for hearing a plea challenging the government's decision to deport illegal Rohingya Muslim immigrants back to Myanmar.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud considered the submission Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, to defer the hearing.

"As prayed for by Tushar Mehta, Additional Solicitor General, let the matter be listed on September 18," the bench said.

The apex court had earlier asked the ASG to take instruction from the Centre about its response to the petition challenging the decision on various grounds, including that it violated international human right conventions.

The plea, filed by two Rohingya immigrants, Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, who are registered refugees under the United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR), claimed they had taken refuge in India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination, violence and bloodshed against the community there.

The violent attacks allegedly by Myanmarese armymen have led to an exodus of Rohingya tribals from the western Rakhine state in that country to India and Bangladesh. Many of those who had fled to India after the earlier spate of violence, have settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.

Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue and Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan leader K. N. Govindacharaya has recently moved the apex court seeking to make him a party in the case filed by the two Rohingya Muslims. Govindacharya has opposed their plea saying they were "a burden" on the country's resources and posed a serious threat to national security.

However, the Rohingyas, in their plea filed through Prashant Bhushan, said their proposed deportation was against the fundamental rights and the international human rights conventions.

"Proposed deportation is contrary to the constitutional protections of Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) and Article 51(c) of the Constitution, which provides equal rights and liberty to every person.

"This act would also be in contradiction with the principle of 'Non-Refoulement', which has been widely recognised as a principle of Customary International Law," the plea said, while seeking a direction to the government not to deport them and other members of Rohingya community.

It has also sought a direction that Rohingyas be provided "basic amenities to ensure that they can live in human conditions as required by international law". It also said that India has ratified and is a signatory to various conventions that recognise the Principle of "Non- Refoulement', which prohibits deportation of refugees to a country where they may face threat to their lives.

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The principle of non-refoulement - or not sending back refugees to a place where they face danger - is considered part of customary international law and is binding on all states whether they have signed the Refugee Convention or not.

The petition further said that India has traditionally been a hospitable host to refugees and displaced people, both from South Asia and across the world. The government has recently raised "serious concern" over reports of renewed violence and attacks in Myanmar and extended its "strong" support to the Myanmarese government at this "challenging moment".

On August 18, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued notice to the Centre over its plan to deport the Rohingya immigrants, who have been residing in various parts of India.

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