The fundamental right to basic amenities and a dignified life cannot be confined to the Rohingya alone, but has to extend to their Indian neighbours living in the same slum. The Supreme Court cannot shine the spotlight on Rohingya refugees without doing anything for the Indian living in the adjacent slum, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud remarked on Monday.
The court was hearing PIL pleas to provide the refugees with basic amenities.
Justice Chandrachud, who is part of a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, said right to life under Article 21 is equally applicable to all, whether an Indian citizen or not.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said there is a fundamental difference between an Indian slum dweller and a Rohingya refugee.
“The Rohingya refugees is a special category of people. Their specialty is they have nowehere to go. They have no vote, they cannot work. My cousin living in a slum will come to me for help. An Indian slum-dweller can go to his Member of Parliament. Where will the Rohingya go? They cannot go back to Myanmar. They have nowehere else to go. They are the worst of the worst. The problem here is justice,” Mr. Dhavan submitted.
Senior advocate Ashwini Kumar said the petitions concern the human rights of Rohingya refugees. “Human rights are ethical pronouncements. They have to be implemented with full vigour,” Mr. Kumar said.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan said “every person is entitled to basic amenities” like drinking water, medical care, etc.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, said every basic amenity is being provided to Rohingya without discrimination.
However, Mr. Mehta, at one point, submitted that “illegal immigrants snuff out the benefits die to countrymen”.
“These public-spirited citizens have never bothered to see how the Indian citizen living next door to the Rohingya is living,” Mr. Mehta submitted.
He questioned the “sudden rise in rhetoric” and spate of petitions championing the cause of the Rohigya since 2013. He submitted that the immigration of Rohingya from Myanmar, fearing death and persecution, has been going on for the past 10 years.
Senior advocate Sajan Poovayya, for advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, asked how these “illegal immigrants” have ration cards, Aadhaar cards, etc. He said it was only reasonable to expect that Indian citizens get the "first bite of the cherry". Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani said "we cannot have privileged enclaves of Rohingya refugee slum-dwellers".
But Justice Chandrachud said the government cannot remain content with making general statements.
“Do not make general statements. Make specific submissions like how many toilets you have built, etc,” Justice Chandrachud told Mr. Mehta
The court directed the government to submit a report on the basic amenities provided to Rohingya camps in Delhi and Haryana. The next date of hearing is May 9.