SC ‘al­most’ says don’t de­port Ro­hingya but re­lents later

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION - Dhanan­jay.Ma­ha­p­a­tra @times­group.com

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

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