The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it has the authority to review the move to deport Rohingya Muslim refugees, rejecting the NDA government’s stand that the judiciary must not interfere with an executive decision.
“To say this petition is not maintainable, I believe, is not correct,” said an apex court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra. “I, for one, believe from my past experience of 40 years that when a petition like this comes to us, the court should be slow to abdicate its jurisdiction.”
The judge was responding to additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta’s argument that the Centre’s submission with regard to the case was justified.
Mehta contended that the Centre had arrived at its decision (to deport Rohingya Muslims) on the basis of constitutional principles.
“Various parameters are considered before the government arrives at an executive decision,” he said. “It could be diplomatic considerations; whether a country can sustain refugees; what would be the repercussions of providing shelter among the local population… therefore, executive decisions should be left to the government unless any motive is attributed.
Earlier, senior advocate Fali S Nariman had read out a 2011 directive by the UPA government that assured protection to refugees. He insisted that the present government’s decision to deport the Rohingyas went against consistent decisions taken in the past in tune with international obligations.
CJI Misra asked Mehta to take Nariman’s submissions into consideration. “They have raised concerns about women and children. They also feel that India should live up to its commitments and take steps to protect this large community. Just think about it,” he said, adjourning the case till October 13.
The Centre, meanwhile, filed a rejoinder affidavit in the case. Sticking to its stand that the apex court should not interfere with a core executive function, the document stated that decisions on illegal immigrants are taken on a case-to-case basis.
“There cannot be any comparison or claim of discrimination based on an earlier decision taken with respect to one set of illegal immigrants vis-à- vis another set of illegal immigrants,” it added.
The document also stated that as New Delhi is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention of 1951 or the Protocol of 1967, they are not binding on the country. Hence, the Centre has the right to deport illegal immigrants in accordance with Indian laws, thereby protecting the fundamental rights of its own citizens in the interests of national security.