The Supreme Court on Friday refused permission to United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur, E Tendayi Achiume to assist the court in the case concerning deportation of Rohingya refugees (Jaffar Ullah v. Union of India).
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde declined to hear Senior Counsel CU Singh who was appearing on behalf of Achiume.
“We will not hear you. Govt has reservations. We will hear you later,” the CJI said.
“Please give me a moment,” said Singh.
“Your moment is over. There is serious objection. We will see when to hear you,” the Court replied.
The Court was referring the objection raised by Senior Counsel Harish Salve who was appearing on behalf of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir.
"Please don't go into this. UN is not subject to your jurisdiction of the municipal Court. Our govt has issues with UN Special Rapporteur," Salve said.
In her plea, Achiume had stated that mass deportation of Rohingyas is impermissible under international human rights law and India must carry out due process obligations necessary for protection of each individual’s human rights and evaluate the likelihood an individual facing torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or deprivation of life in the receiving State, if deported.
The application cited the findings of UN on Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingyas which represents a racially discriminatory, systematic project carried out with clear evidence of genocidal intent.
The Rohingya matter came up for hearing on Friday before the top court after a plea was filed by Mohammad Salimullah, a Rohingya refugee seeking release and protection of over 150 Rohingya refugees in Jammu and Kashmir after the Union territory's administration has said it will work on their deportation to Myanmar.
The plea filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan sought direction to Ministry of Home Affairs to expeditiously grant refugee identification cards through the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) to the Rohingyas in the informal camps.
The plea prayed for protection of rights guaranteed under Article 14 and Article 21, read with Article 51(c) of the Constitution, against the deportation of Rohingya refugees who have taken refuge in India after escaping widespread violence and discrimination against their community in their home country Myanmar.
The Union government should refrain from implementing any orders on deporting the Rohingya refugees, who have been detained in Jammu, it was submitted.
“There is a military government in Myanmar now. Their life is under threat,” Bhushan had said during the mentioning of case earlier while requesting for an urgent hearing of the plea.
The Central government through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the plea on Friday contesting the claim of the petitioner that they are refugees.
"They are not refugees at all. This is the second round of litigation. This petitioner had filed an application (before) and it was dismissed," Mehta said.
Mehta said that they are illegal immigrants and will be deported as per the procedure established by law.
"They are illegally immigrants. We are always in touch with Myanmar and if they confirm so then they can be deported," Mehta maintained.
Bhushan, representing the petitioner said that these people had to flee Myanmar fearing for their lives.
"Mere fact that a country responsible for their fleeing wants wants back cannot be a ground to send them back when we know they will subjected to risk. This is the principle of refoulement," Bhushan submitted.
"We are not the capital of refugees all across the world," Mehta responded.
The Court after hearing all parties reserved its order in the interim application.
Interestingly, a Jammu based NGO, Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice has also filed an application before the Supreme Court stating that the plea to stop the Rohingya deportation must not be entertained since the settlement of the Rohingyas in Jammu was "a part of a larger design" and an attempt to destabilise the country.
The application by the NGO filed through advocate Rajeev M Roy stated that settlement of illegal immigrants in Jammu "is a part of a nefarious and sinister design to change the delicate demography of the tense and internationally sensitive region of Jammu and Kashmir in order to further certain vested interests".
"It is clear as daylight that the settlement is planned, instigated, conducted and executed in a sophisticated manner in order to further certain vested interest and affect security of the country," the application said.
The NGO was represented by Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani along with advocate Ravi Sharma.