On 11th March 2021, Thursday an interim application was filed before the Supreme Court through Advocate Prashant Bhushan, seeking urgent intervention to release the illegal Rohingya immigrants detained in Jammu. The interim application has been filed by a Rohingya named Mohammad Salimullah and has been drawn by Advocate Cheryl Dsouza.
The plea by Mohammad Salimullah has sought urgent intervention of apex court since those detained in Jammu could at any time be deported to Myanmar from where they fled because of the exodus.
The Supreme Court on Thursday that is on 8th April 2021 delivered its order on the plea seeking the release of at least 150 Rohingya refugees detained in a Jammu sub-jail and averting their deportation. A bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian had reserved its order on the plea on 26 March. The Centre however on March 26 had opposed the plea by Mohammad Salimullah determining that India cannot become “the international capital of illegal immigrants”.
The government claimed and called the Rohingya “absolutely illegal immigrants” who posed “serious threats to national security” and also struggled that the right to settle in India could not be asserted by illegal immigrants under the garb of Article 21 of our constitution which guarantees the right to life and liberty.
On March 6th as per the instructions of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the Jammu & Kashmir administration started a verification drive of the Rohingya and moved some of them to a centre, pending their potential deportation. Around 7,000 Rohingya refugees are residing in Jammu & Kashmir, these numbers have increased since the late 2000s when they first arrived in the region after escaping from Myanmar, where they were facing religious persecution. India has previously deported Rohingya refugees.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre on March 26 submitted that a similar application to stop the deportation of Rohingya from Assam was dismissed by the top court in 2018 and that the present application must meet the same conclusion. He added the Centre has begun the process of deporting Rohingya after receiving a confirmation from the Myanmar government regarding their nationality.
Representing the Jammu & Kashmir administration, senior advocate Harish Salve also aware the bench against “starting a dangerous trend” by interfering with a subject related to illegal immigrants and diplomatic relations with another country.
Salimullah’s lawyer, Prashant Bhushan pointed to a January 2020 judgment of the International Court of Justice that highlighted the persecution faced by Rohingya in Myanmar. While the Centre’s affidavit maintained it has to first secure the interests of its citizens before those of illegal immigrants who, it claimed, were casting the burden on the already depleting natural resources of the country in addition to posing a security threat.
Here is what affidavit by Centre said: “The Constitution makes it very clear that India as a sovereign nation, has the first and foremost Constitutional obligation and duty towards its citizens and to ensure that the demographic and social structure of the country is not changed to its detriment, the resulting socio-economic problems do not occur to the prejudice of the citizens and are not diverted to the detriment of the citizens, due to the influx of illegal migrants into the territory of India”.
In its order on 8th April 2021, the Supreme Court denied interim relief for the petition filed by advocate Prashant Kishore. “It is not possible to grant the interim relief, however, it is made clear that the Rohingyas in Jammu & Kashmir on whose behalf the application has been moved shall not be deported unless the procedure prescribed for such deportation is followed,” the Supreme Court said in its order.
The court did not order the release of illegal Rohingya immigrants detained in holding centres in Jammu & Kashmir and instead allowed their deportation back to their native country of Myanmar, as per the procedure established by law.
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