The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its orders on a plea seeking the release of about 150 Rohingya reportedly detained in a Jammu jail.
The top court maintained a non-committal tone when its judicial conscience was tapped by advocate Prashant Bhushan about the atrocities Rohingya may face on deportation to Myanmar.
“We are not in any way called upon to condone or condemn genocide in Myanmar, though we believe genocide anywhere is condemnable,” Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde reacted to Mr. Bhushan.
The Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, said Rohingya who had fled persecution in Myanmar to India were deported only after the government of that country confirmed their nationality.
“They are illegal immigrants. We are in touch with Myanmar. Once Myanmar confirms their nationality, they are deported,” Mr. Mehta explained.
“So, you will deport only after Myanmar confirms?” the CJI verified.
“Yes, we cannot deport a person from Afghanistan to Mynamar,” Mr. Mehta said.
“The fear is that once they are deported, they may get slaughtered. But we cannot stop it…” the CJI remarked
Mr. Mehta said, “India is not the capital of the immigrants of the world”.
“But will the word of a military government that has seized power through a coup be enough for the Indian government? Is this country not obliged to maintain the guarantee of right to life,” Mr. Bhushan asked.
Chief Justice Bobde said the Supreme Court could not refuse to recognise the sovereignty of another nation.
“The mere fact that another country wants them [Rohingya] back and you [India] want to give them is not enough. You cannot send anybody to a place where he can be killed or subjected to torture,” Mr. Bhushan argued, referring to the principle of refoulement.
“Have you today placed any evidence that Rohingya are being killed or tortured [in Mynamar]?” Chief Justice Bobde asked.
Mr. Bhushan asked the court to hear the United Nations Special Rapporteur. However, both the Centre and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir raised serious objections, and the Bench relented.
“We will not allow the United Nations Special Rapporteur to be heard today because there is serious objection,” Chief Justice Bobde told senior advocate C.U. Singh, appearing for the Rapporteur.
“No municipal court should do anything that embarrasses the executive government. Municipal court applies only domestic laws. Treaties or conventions refused by the government cannot be implemented through the courts. The U.N. is not subject to the jurisdiction of the municipal court… Besides, Mr. Bhushan has not impleaded Jammu and Kashmir in his application,” senior advocate Harish Salve, for the Union Territory administration, submitted.
The court hearing concerns an urgent application filed by NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms, represented by Mr. Bhushan.