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Supreme Court rider on Rohingya return

A bench headed by CJI S.A. Bobde passed the direction while refusing to entertain a plea for a blanket stay on the possible deportation process

Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 09.04.21, 01:58 AM

The Supreme Court on Thursday said that no Rohingya refugee from Jammu and Kashmir can be deported from the country unless the government follows the procedure prescribed under the law for the expulsion of illegal migrants.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde passed the direction while refusing to entertain a plea for a blanket stay on the possible deportation process of about 150-180 Rohingya Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir.

“It is not possible to grant the interim relief. However, it is made clear that the Rohingya in Jammu on whose behalf the application has been moved shall not be deported unless the procedure prescribed for such deportation is followed,” the bench, also having Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, said.

The government will have to proceed in line with the Foreigners Act, under which alleged illegal migrants have to be first identified and only then prosecuted before a tribunal. Only on being declared as “illegal migrants” by the tribunal can they be deported.

The application has been moved by Samiullah Khan, a Rohingya refugee who had challenged the central government’s decision to deport thousands of Rohingya who had entered India from Myanmar following the political turmoil in the neighbouring country.

The application has cited news reports to plead that since March 7 this year nearly 150-170 Rohingya refugees in Jammu have been illegally detained and jailed in the local sub-jail that has been converted into a holding centre.

It had sought a restraint on the Union government from deporting the Rohingya, particularly from Jammu and Kashmir, following the reported biometric verification of such refugees by the administration of the Union Territory.

The application had quoted inspector-general of police (Jammu) Mukesh Singh as stating that the refugees face deportation to Myanmar following verification by their embassy. According to the application, there have been reports that some refugees never returned to their camps after the biometric verification and had been detained or jailed by police.

The alleged action was taken although most Rohingya refugees have cards issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) acknowledging their status and granting them protection. The application quoted media reports to point out how panic had gripped this already marginalised refugee community in Jammu after the verification drive and disappearance of family members. 

The applicant has prayed for directions from the court to release the refugees who have been detained. He has also pleaded for a direction to the Centre to refrain from implementing any orders on deporting Rohingya refugees and a direction to the UNHCR to intervene and assess the protection needs of the refugees. 

On March 26, solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had assured the bench that the Rohingya refugees would not be deported unless the Myanmar government identified them and agreed to take them back.

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