The Centre today told the Supreme Court that the Rohingya Muslims are “illegal” immigrants in the country and their continuous stay posed “serious national security ramifications”.
The Centre’s affidavit, filed in the apex court Registry, said the fundamental right to reside and settle in any part of the country is available to citizens only and illegal refugees cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to enforce the right.
Earlier during the day, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra considered the statement of ASG Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, that the reply would be filed later today and fixed the PIL challenging the deportation of Rohingyas for hearing on October 3.
“As evident from the constitutional guarantee flowing from Article 19 of the Constitution, the right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India as well as right to move freely throughout the territory of India is available only to the citizens of India… No illegal immigrant can pray for a writ of this Court which directly or indirectly confer the fundamental rights in general…,” the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs said.
The Centre said the Rohingya refugees were illegals and their continuous stay pose a grave security threat.
“It is submitted that continuance of Rohingyas’ illegal immigration into India and their continued stay in India, apart from being absolutely illegal, is found to be having serious national security ramifications and has serious security threats,” it said.
The government said it may file in sealed cover the details of the security threats and inputs gathered by the various security agencies in this matter.
The Centre said that since India is not a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951, the obligations concerned to non-refoulement is not applicable.
“That the provisions of Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951 and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967 cannot be relied upon by the petitioner since India is not a signatory of either of them. It is respectfully submitted that the obligation concerning the prohibition of return/non-refoulement is a codified provision under the provisions of 1951 Convention referred to above.
“It is submitted that this obligation is binding only in respect of the States which are parties to the Convention.
Since India is not a party to the said Convention, or the said Protocol, the obligations contained therein are not applicable to India,” it said.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, did not issue notice to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which is already seized of the matter and had on August 18 issued notice to the Centre.
The plea, filed by two Rohingya immigrants, Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, who are registered refugees under the United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR), claimed they had taken refuge in India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination, violence and bloodshed against the community there.
The violent attacks allegedly by Myanmarese armymen have led to an exodus of Rohingya tribals from the western Rakhine state in that country to India and Bangladesh. Many of those who had fled to India after the earlier spate of violence, were settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.
The plea said that India has ratified and is a signatory to various conventions that recognise the Principle of “Non- Refoulement’, which prohibits deportation of refugees to a country where they may face threat to their lives.
The government has recently raised “serious concern” over reports of renewed violence and attacks in Myanmar and extended its “strong” support to the Myanmarese government at this “challenging moment”.