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SC REJECTS PLEA TO STALL DEPORTATION OF ROHINGYAS

Context:

The Supreme Court rejects a plea that had sought the release of at least 150 Rohingya refugees detained in a Jammu sub-jail and the stalling of deportation.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Governance and Government Policies, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Supreme Court judgement on the deportation of Rohingya refugees and the reactions to it
  2. International Laws in relation with handling Refugees
  3. How refugees are treated / have been treated in India?
  4. What is the role of Indian Judiciary in protecting refugees?

About the Supreme Court judgement on the deportation of Rohingya refugees and the reactions to it

  • The SC bench added the caveat that the deportation of Rohingya refugees from Jammu must follow due procedure, which involved their proper identification and acknowledgment of their citizenship by the Myanmar government.
  • The government called the Rohingya “absolutely illegal immigrants” who posed “serious threats to national security” and also contended that the right to settle in India could not be asserted by illegal immigrants under the garb of the Constitution’s Article 21, which guarantees the right to life and liberty.
  • On the instructions of the Union ministry of home affairs, the Jammu & Kashmir administration started a verification drive of the Rohingya, and moved some of them to a holding centre, pending their potential deportation. India has previously deported Rohingya refugees.
  • The Centre’s affidavit maintained that it has to first secure the interests of its own citizens before those of illegal immigrants who, it said, were casting a burden on the already depleting natural resources of the country in addition to posing a security threat.
  • The Jammu & Kashmir administration also cautioned the bench against “starting a dangerous trend” by interfering with a subject related to illegal immigrants and diplomatic relations with another country.

International Laws in relation with handling Refugees

  • Even though the refugees are foreigners in the country of asylum, by virtue of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, they could enjoy the same fundamental rights and freedoms as nationals.
  • The 1951 Refugee Convention asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom, and the core principle of the convention is non-refoulement. (Refoulement means the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.)

How refugees are treated / have been treated in India?

  • India hosts over 2,00,000 refugees, victims of civil strife and war in Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Some refugees, the Tibetans who arrived between 1959 and 1962, were given adequate refuge in over 38 settlements, with all privileges provided to an Indian citizen excluding the right to vote).
  • The Afghan refugees fleeing the civil war in the 1980s live in slums across Delhi with no legal status or formal documents to allow them to work or establish businesses in India.
  • The Foreigners Act (1946) and the Registration of Foreigners Act (1939) currently govern the entry and exit of all refugees, treating them as foreigners without due consideration of their special circumstances.

What is the role of Indian Judiciary in protecting refugees?

  • Refugees have been accorded constitutional protection by the judiciary (National Human Rights Commission vs State of Arunachal Pradesh, 1996).
  • In addition, the Supreme Court has held that the right to equality (Article 14) and right to life and personal liberty (Article 21) extends to refugees.
  • India remains the only significant democracy without legislation specifically for refugees. A well-defined asylum law would establish a formal refuge granting process with suitable exclusions (war criminals, serious offenders, etc.) kept.

-Source: Hindustan Times

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September 2022
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