SC for Rohingya 'balance'

The Supreme Court today said it would "strike a balance" between national security and humanitarian values in dealing with Rohingya Muslim migrants but hoped the Centre would not deport them until the issue was finally resolved.

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 14.10.17
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New Delhi, Oct. 13: The Supreme Court today said it would "strike a balance" between national security and humanitarian values in dealing with Rohingya Muslim migrants but hoped the Centre would not deport them until the issue was finally resolved.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud initially wanted to pass an order staying the deportation of the estimated 40,000 Rohingya but refrained from doing so after additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta opposed any such directive on the ground that it would have international ramifications. The court finally listed the matter for hearing on November 21.

"We have adopted a tradition that protection has to be not only on the basis of human rights but it has to be under our Constitution. We have to seek how far courts can go. We have to see the compelling interests of all... security, economic interests, labour interests and demographic considerations," CJI Misra observed. "It is a large issue, an issue of great magnitude. Therefore, the state has a big role... the role has to be multi-pronged," the bench added.

#The court was dealing with a PIL by Mohd Salimullah and some other Rohingya Muslims challenging the Centre's plan to deport the migrants to Buddhist-majority Myanmar which they fled following persecution. The Centre had earlier defended its plan on the ground that the settlers posed a serious threat to national security and claimed sections of them had links with the IS, other extremist groups and Pakistan spy agency ISI.

Appearing for the petitioners', senior advocate Fali Nariman said the government could not argue that the issue was not justiciable and that it must be looked at from the point of view of Articles 14 (fundamental right to equality) and 21 (life and liberty) of the Constitution. The articles "speak of persons, not a citizen", he said, implying that such rights were not the prerogative of citizens alone but even foreign nationals. Nariman read out from a recent central circular to all states on the deportation of the migrants.

Justice Misra then said: "We have seen that they (the Centre) say that besides being a burden on our limited resources, they (Rohingya) also pose a serious threat to national security."

Nariman termed any blanket deportation order unconstitutional that must be struck down and said the Centre should decide on a case-by-case basis. "Let them deport if they have something wrong. We have no objection."

CJI Mishra then told the additional solicitor-general: "If a man is a terrorist, you take action. You take action wherever you find wrong. But don't deport them."

At this, Mehta said: "So far the contingency has not arisen."

Nariman insisted that until the court held extensive hearings on the matter, the Centre should not deport the migrants.

CJI Misra told Mehta "not to give room for contingency". At this, Mehta said: "So far the contingency has not arisen. If any contingency arises, let them come to court."

The bench then ordered the matter be listed in November while giving the petitioners the "liberty" to approach the court before "in case any contingency arises".

"There should not be any emotional arguments. We will go strictly by the law. We are treating the issue holistically. We are thinking how to strike a balance," the bench observed.