The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to order the release of 150 Rohingya refugees detained in Jammu and Kashmir but said that they will not be deported without following proper procedure, reported Live Law.
“It is not possible to grant the interim relief prayed for,” the court said. “However, it is made clear that the Rohingyas in Jammu, on whose behalf the application has been moved, shall not be deported unless the procedure prescribed for such deportation is followed”.
A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian passed the order on a plea filed by a member of the Rohingya community, Mohammad Salimullah, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan. The petition claimed that they had been “illegally detained and jailed” and sought directions to the Jammu and Kashmir administration and the Union home ministry to grant them refugee identification cards.
In March, the refugees were sent to the Hiranagar sub-jail under provisions of Section 3(2)e of the Foreigners Act. The police took the action after Jammu and Kashmir administration collected biometric details of the refugees during a verification process.
The plea sought protection of the rights of the refugees guaranteed under Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty), read with Article 51(C) of the Constitution (respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organised people with one another; and encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration), reported Bar and Bench.
It added that Rohingya refugees came to India after escaping violence and discrimination against their community in Myanmar.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had opposed the plea, contesting the claim of the petitioners that they are refugees. “They are not refugees at all,” Mehta said. “This is the second round of litigation. This petitioner had filed an application [before] and it was dismissed.”
In its order, the court observed that the right not to be deported is associated with the right to reside or settle in any part of India, guaranteed under Article 19(1)(e) of the Constitution. This right, however, is available only to citizens of India.
“There is a military government in Myanmar now,” Bhushan said. “Their life is under threat.” To this, the court said in its order that it cannot comment about the situation in Myanmar.
During the hearing on March 23, Bhushan had referred to an order passed by the International Court of Justice to highlight that Rohingya refugees faced a genocidal threat in Myanmar. Mehta had opposed this, saying that a similar application related to the refugees in Assam was dismissed in 2018. He had said this fact was suppressed by the petitioners in the current application. “India cannot be a capital for all illegal migrants of the world,” Mehta added.