The Supreme Court is set to decide the fate of tens of thousands of Rohingyas who presently find refuge in India, following their exodus from ethnic persecution in Myanmar. Lawyers appearing for the now stateless people are convinced that there is constitutional ground and legal precedent to support their plea despite the absence of specific legislation.
The UN has estimated there are 40,000 Rohingyas in India, of whom 16,000 have been recognised as refugees.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan first approached the Supreme Court on the behalf of some of the Rohingya refugees against summary deportation. Noted civil rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves joined on behalf of Rohingyas in the Jammu camps. Leading the arguments will be the noted jurists Fali Nariman and Rajeev Dhavan, who has authored what is probably the only book on the subject—Refugee Law and Policy in India.
The Union home ministry has said that they consider the Rohingyas to be a “drain on resources”, and their ejection to be in the interest of “national security”. The government also circulated an affidavit that reportedly claimed some Rohingyas had militant and terrorist links in Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, the government later retracted the affidavit, calling it a preliminary draft.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the international body that certifies refugees. However, India has not come on board the 1951 UN Refugee Convention framework. Records show that the government of the day had viewed it as a political tool to accommodate refugees from the Communist countries during the Cold War. In 1995, India became a part of the executive committee of the UN Refugee Convention. India has accepted refugees of Armenian, Afghan, Tibetan, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Sri Lankan and...