SC ‘almost’ says don’t deport Rohingya but relents later
New Delhi: The Supreme Court gave the jitters to the Centre on Friday by seeking to prohibit the deportation of Rohingya, before coming around to say that it would seek to strike the right balance between humanitarian consideration for the asylum-seekers from Myanmar and the government’s concern that they posed a threat to national interest, including security, economy and the working class.
Before adjourning the hearing in the contentious matter to November 21 for a wider debate, the bench surprised both the petitioners and the Centre by saying it intended to pass an interim order, “Don’t deport. Take action (against criminal elements) where required.” The petitioners, who had not sought such an interim order, were overjoyed. But additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta protested, telling the bench that such an order was unwarranted as even the petitioners had mentioned any contingency. The petitioners had challenged a central government directive to states to sensitise law-enforcing and intelligence departments to identify and de- port all illegal Rohingya migrants, who the petitioners said had come to India to save their lives from brutal persecution unleashed by the Myanmar army in Rakhine province.
Mehta said the issue had wide ramifications and the government, as everyone knew, was in talks with Bangladesh and Myanmar to find a permanent solution to illegal migration that threatened India’s national security, economic interests and the interest of the labour class. “Passing such an interim order was not required as even the petitioners have not sought it,” he said.
The bench changed its mind acknowledging: “There cannot be an iota of doubt that there has to be a broader humanitarian approach to the issue which has come before the court for the first time. But national interest cannot be kept secondary. A balance has to be struck.” After a lot of persuasion by Mehta, the SC agreed not to pass any interim order and recorded Fali S Nariman’s submission that if the petitioners felt there was any exigency (in the event of any action by the government to deport the Rohingya), they would move the court. With a large number of petitioners represented by renowned senior advocates, including Nariman, Rajeev Dhavan, Colin Gonsalves, Prashant Bhushan, Kapil Sibal and Ashwani Kumar, it became evident to the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A MKhanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud that the hearing would have to be spread over several days and decided to post it for hearing on November 21.
The CJI said, “We have developed a tradition to protect people in humanitarian situations. But we have to see how far the court can go in this issue (sic). There are competing interests. On one side it is national, security, economic and labour interests and on the other , there are children, women, sick and aged who need protection. A migrant having terror connection gets deprived of humanitarian considerations. But children, women ... have to be dealt with differently.”
QUESTION OF JUSTICE