New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday favoured the Centre’s submission that no interim order should be passed on pleas to grant certain facilities to Rohingya refugees as it would grab ‘media headlines’ and have repercussions on India’s diplomatic ties with Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The top Court said it will not pass any interim order with regard to ensuring health and educational facilities for Rohingya refugee camps in the country unless materials contradicting the Centre’s claims are brought before it.
“Lordship should not pass any interim orders for media headlines. All my statements are on affidavit and I represent Government of India and the interests of India,” Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M Khanwilkar and D.Y Chandrachud.
Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said any order passed may have repercussions on India’s diplomatic relations with Myanmar and Bangladesh.
“I cannot place before this Court the diplomatic solutions that are being worked out. The diplomatic decisions are taken at the highest level and are not for public consumption. These are the decisions taken at the top executive level. Government is alive to the situation prevailing at the Rohingya refugee camps,” Mehta said.
He also questioned the bonafides and motives of the NGOs and individuals seeking facilities for the Rohingya refugees and said the government has already said on affidavit that no discrimination between Indians and outsiders was being done in providing health and education facilities.
“They are relying on some newspaper reports. I don’t know what interests are being protected here. When you go to hospital or school, do they ask for your passport? The way PILs are being filed nowadays, this court should take a view as to who wants to change the demography of the country, who wants destabilisation and who wants to disturb the internal security of the country,” Mehta said.
The ASG further raised questions on the PILs saying these were filed based on media reports and no one knew whose interests were being protected here.
In response, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for two Rohingya refugees- Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, said “It is the interest of humanity which is being protected here”.
“Centre has said in its affidavit that they are not using chilli spray and stun grenade to push back the Rohingya refugees. They (government) have accepted that they are not allowing anyone to enter India without valid documents. They are refugees. How will they have valid documents,” Bhushan said.
Senior Advocate Ashwani Kumar, also appearing for petitioners, said the issue was of Article 21 and adherence to international conventions.
“The core fundamental issue here is whether India will stand up for Article 21 of Constitution, whether India will stand up to ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (a Sanskrit phrase meaning the whole world is one family) and whether India stands up for international conventions and protection of human rights”, Kumar said.
Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani supported the contention of the ASG and said the Court has to first decide what was the real issue behind all these petitions.
“When the government has said that health facilities are being provided, then what else do they want? They themselves have not visited the refugee camps but want the Court to pass orders which would make a media headline,” he said.
Advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhaya, one of the petitioners, said “few NGO’s are posing more threat to the unity of the country than enemy country like Pakistan”.
The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on April 9 and clarified that it would not pass any interim order.
Earlier in the day, the Apex Court directed the Centre to file a “comprehensive status report” giving details of conditions at Rohingya camps in various states after visiting them.
The Court was hearing a separate plea filed by one Jaffar Ullah alleging unhygienic situation at refugee camps in Haryana, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Jaffar, said the poor conditions at these camps had led to various deaths recently.
The Apex Court had on March 7 sought the Centre’s response on a plea of refugees Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir seeking education and healthcare on the lines of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, who were given such facilities in Tamil Nadu.
However, the Centre in its affidavit had opposed the plea saying the comparison with Sri Lankan refugees was “ill-founded and misconceived”. It said certain relief facilities to the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees had its genesis in the Indo-Ceylon Agreement of 1964.
The Rohingya refugees have sought permission to enter India, besides education and healthcare facilities and grant of refugee ID cards by the Foreigner Regional Registration Office.
They had earlier approached the apex court opposing the Centre’s decision to deport over 40,000 refugees who came to India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination and violence against the community.
The Rohingyas, who fled to India after violence in the Western Rakhine State of Myanmar, are settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.
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