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'Whether Rohingyas Entitled To Refugee Status in India?' SC Agrees To Hear In August

Mehal Jain
9 July 2019 7:46 AM GMT
Whether Rohingyas Entitled To Refugee Status in India?  SC Agrees To Hear In August
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to finally adjudicate the question of whether the members of the Rohingya community are entitled to refugee status and hence, immunity from deportation in August. The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi decided to take up this central issue, "instead of deciding the supplementary questions", requiring the Counsel to file the gist of their...

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to finally adjudicate the question of whether the members of the Rohingya community are entitled to refugee status and hence, immunity from deportation in August.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi decided to take up this central issue, "instead of deciding the supplementary questions", requiring the Counsel to file the gist of their arguments, any supporting literature, articles and viewpoints by August.

"The fundamental prayer is to not deport the members of the Rohingya community who are presently in India. There is also the prayer to afford them basic amenities to live in human conditions as required under the international law on refugees...there was an interim application seeking a stay on the deportation of 7 Rohingyas to Myanmar, which Your Lordships had dismissed.

The main question is whether illegal immigrants can claim refugee status; how they are being dealt with internationally is the main issue. Everything else is peripheral...", urged Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Tuesday, as the petitioners' counsel sought to begin on the status report on the living conditions in the Rohingya colonies in India.

"Under municipal law, what is the basis for granting refugee status to non-citizens?", inquired Justice Anirudhha Bose.

"Nation states themselves set up a department to handle claims of those being persecuted abroad, claims of asylum, of refugee status. Since we have no department as such in India, there has been an unofficial but long-standing relationship with the UNHCR. There is an intensive interrogation as to where they are coming from, if they are genuinely escaping persecution- there is a detailed inquiry pursuant to which the refugee status is issued...60-70% of the Rohingya in India already have the refugee cards. The remaining are pending determination...", replied Senior Counsel Colin Gonsalves, for one of the petitioners.

"Is there any policy decision?", pressed Justice Bose.

"For economic migrants, there are guidelines... economic migrants are not supposed to stay in the country...but several countries, for example Australia, have extended protection to migrants. They don't ask them to go back...", responded Mr. Gonsalves.

Then, the Chief Justice proceeded to fix the matter for hearing in August.

In the context of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, the Madras High Court Madurai bench had held that those who flee to India fearing persecution in their country cannot be regarded as illegal migrants and had ordered the Central Government to consider their applications for Indian citizenship.

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