15 Sep 2023 4:23 PM GMT
Justice (Retd.) S. Muralidhar, while delivering the keynote address on the topic “Opening Doors to Justice: Prevention of Violence Against Migrant Women” stated that illegal migrants and asylum seeker are the right bearers and stated that the notion that these people have no rights must change. Further, with respect to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, he noted that the same...
Justice (Retd.) S. Muralidhar, while delivering the keynote address on the topic “Opening Doors to Justice: Prevention of Violence Against Migrant Women” stated that illegal migrants and asylum seeker are the right bearers and stated that the notion that these people have no rights must change. Further, with respect to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, he noted that the same provides rights to everyone, not particularly to citizens or documented persons.
The event was organized by Migrant & Asylum Project (MAP).
At the outset, Justice S Muralidhar stated that as a lawyer, who had the occasions to see the cases of forcible evictions, he has noticed the mystification of law and legal processes.
The former Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court went on to say that the same vulnerabilities which migrant population face is also faced by internally displaced population. Elucidating the same he said:
“For instance, this one term Bangladeshi, can be applied across to various sects of population. That’s dangerous word from the point of view of state. Always the argument of national security and sovereignty is all put forth and with even greater vehemence in cases of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers”.
Talking about the Court’s response on the said issue, he talked about the interim order of the Supreme Court wherein the Court denied the interim protection to Rohingyas from deportation. He opined that the order resulted in depriving them of the relief which they could have got. However, he emphasized that in a stark contrast, was the order pronounced by the Manipur High Court in Nandita Haksar v. State of Manipur, W.P.(Crl.) No. 6 of 2021. It is worth mentioning that this matter was presided over by the Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar (present SC Judge). Therein, the Rohingyas, stuck in Manipur, were trying to reach Delhi and they just needed a travel permit to come to Delhi in order to apply to the UNHCR for the refugee status.
He stated that in the said order the High Court had traced the rights of the refugee population under Article 21 of the India Constitution. Moving forward, he averred that this intersection of law and poverty brings us to the intersection of criminal law and the constitution. Addressing the lawyers in the audience, he said that this is the neglected area in our study of law and constitution.
“Every act of a policeman detaining a person, every act of a magistrate remanding a person, is regulated by the Constitutional scheme. This understanding has to seep in.”
Notedly, he also talked about that how most of the illegal migrants and asylum seekers think that they don’t have rights. However, that whole notion needs to change. They may not have the capacity to engage with the formal legal system. He went on to say that this barrier is also faced by internally displaced people.
“It deters people from engaging in that system. Which is why in India we still have, what we call a robust parallel system. People readily engage with a parallel system rather than engage in a formal system.”
In this context, he referred to the pioneering study done in of Lima and Peru, on the parallel system, where it was found that there is a greater degree protection of rights in the parallel system than it was in the formal one.
He urged the need of legal service authorities to engage with persons not because they are recognized by the formal system but also because they are persons and right holders. Above all, they cannot be deprived of the basic rights of dignity and of safety and security.
“I think there is a need for all the legal services institutions to shed their inhibitions that they have in engaging people who may fall in the domain of illegality”
By the end of his address, appreciating the tireless work of MAP volunteers including their paralegals, he said:
“The cases where you work the hardest and probably don’t get paid at all but at the end of the day you are able to get justice for whom you are working, that gives you far more satisfaction than any other thing.”
Lastly, he also spoke about the fact that India has always been a country of migrants and immigrants, he said:
“If you go back to the ancient times also, this was the Country that always had immigrants. It is only the political, legal borders that have classified them as illegal migrant, internal migrant or an asylum seeker.”
At this, he also said that we need to have more humane approach to treat illegal immigrants coming into our Country without easily labelling them as illegal.
The video of the event can be seen here.