The Centre on Monday refused in the Supreme Court to give 40,000 Rohingya Muslim immigrants an assurance that it will not move for their deportation back to Myanmar.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, remained non-committal on Monday when the two Rohingyas who moved the Supreme Court tried to draw an assurance that the government would not move against their community or take “coercive steps” as the apex court was now in the picture.
"I am not making any such statements," Mr. Mehta said categorically.
Listing the case for hearing on September 11, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra asked advocate Prashant Bhushan — appearing for the two Rohingyas Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir — to first serve the copy of their petition on the Centre.
The court then asked Mr. Mehta to take instructions from the government on the plea made by the Rohingyas to protect their life and liberty.
“The 40,000 Rohingyas are the world's most wretched people. They have been persecuted everywhere. Protect them,” Mr. Bhushan, assisted by advocate Pranav Sachdeva, made an emotional opening statement before the Bench.
But as of now, the court refused to commit to anything. "Let's see," Chief Justice Misra said.
The petition by the Rohingyas contended that any move to deport them would violate the constitutional guarantee of the Indian State to “protect the life and liberty of every human being, whether citizen or not.”
Their deportment would violate India's commitment to international conventions which recognise the “Principle of Non-Refoulement.” This principle of customary international law prohibits the deportation of refugees to a country where they face threat to their lives.
The UNHRC Report of 2016 on the Human Rights violations and abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar has noted successive patterns of serious human rights violations to the right to life, liberty and security of the Rohingyas by state security forces and other officials in Mynamar.
Violations include summary executions, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment, forced labour, arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds of Rohingyas, including women and children.
Recently, the National Human Rights Commission had also issued notice to the government on the proposed deportment.
Panic struck the refugee community following media reports of a statement by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju in Parliament in early August that the Central government has directed States to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including Rohingyas.