Centre says India not capital of illegal immigrants

Plea in SC seeks release of 150 Rohingya

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that India is not the capital of illegal immigrants, contesting a plea seeking release of about 150 Rohingya reportedly detained in a Jammu jail.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan vehemently argued about atrocities Rohingyas may face if they were deported to Myanmar, as the current military government in Myanmar is unfavourable to them. “We are not in any way called upon to condone or condemn genocide in Myanmar, though we believe genocide anywhere is condemnable,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde told Bhushan.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said the Rohingya, who had fled persecution in Myanmar to India, were deported only after confirmation of their nationality from the government of that country.

“They are illegal immigrants…We are in touch with Myanmar and once Myanmar confirms their nationality, then they will be deported,” Mehta clarified.

The bench also compromising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian queried Mehta, will you deport them only after Myanmar confirms? Mehta explained the government will not deport a person hailing from Afghanistan to Myanmar.

The top court observed “The fear is that once they are deported, they may get slaughtered. But we cannot stop it”.

Bhushan urged the top court not to deport the Rohingyas back to Myanmar. Mehta submitted “India is not the capital of the immigrants of the world”. He pointed that a strange pattern has been observed with the movement of Rohingya who illegally entered from border areas. “They entered from West Bengal and travelled all the way up to Jammu and Kashmir”, said Mehta. He reiterated after confirmation from the concerned government they will deported.

Bhushan retorted, how could a confirmation from a military government, which seized power in Myanmar through a coup, can be trusted, and how could it serve basis for their deportation by the Indian government? “Is this country not obliged to maintain the guarantee of right to life,” Bhushan submitted. The bench replied that it cannot refuse to recognise the sovereignty of another nation. The bench observed: “we are only considering the legality of their deportation.”

Bhushan said the government cannot send somebody to a place where that person is likely to be subjected to torture or may face threat to life. The Chief Justice asked Bhushan where is the evidence that Rohingya are being tortured or killed in Myanmar? Bhushan asked the court to hear the submission of the United Nations Special Rapporteur represented by senior advocate C.U. Singh. However, both the Centre and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, represented by senior advocate Harish Salve, vehemently objected. “We will not allow the United Nations Special Rapporteur to be heard today because there is serious objection,” said the bench.

Salve said treaties or conventions declined by the government cannot be elbowed through the courts and the U.N. is not subject to the jurisdiction of the municipal court.

After a detailed hearing in the matter, the Supreme Court reserved its order. An application has been filed by Mohammad Salimullah, a Rohingya refugee, through advocate Prashant Bhushan, seeking direction from the top court to the government to refrain from implementing any orders on deporting the Rohingya refugees who have been detained in jail in Jammu.

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