The Supreme Court will on Thursday deliver its order on a plea seeking the release of at least 150 Rohingya refugees detained in a Jammu sub-jail and stalling their deportation.
The plea has sought an urgent intervention by the apex court since those detained in Jammu could at any time be deported to Myanmar from where they fled because of persecution.
A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde and justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian reserved its order on the plea on March 26.
The Centre on March 26 opposed the plea by Mohammad Salimullah while emphasising that India cannot become “the international capital of illegal immigrants”.
The government called the Rohingya “absolutely illegal immigrants” who posed “serious threats to the national security” and also contended that the right to settle in India could not be asserted by illegal immigrants under the garb of the Constitution’s Article 21, which guarantees the right to life and liberty.
On March 6, on 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 holding centre, pending their potential deportation.
There are close to 7,000 Rohingya refugees in Jammu & Kashmir, numbers that 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.
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta 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 fate.
He added the Centre has begun the process of deporting Rohingya after receiving a confirmation from the Myanmar government regarding their nationality, and that the apex court should steer clear of the “diplomatic issue” since it fell within the exclusive domain of the executive.
Representing the Jammu & Kashmir administration, senior advocate Harish Salve also cautioned 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, alluded to a January 2020 judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that highlighted the persecution faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar.
The Centre’s affidavit maintained that it has to first secure the interests of its own citizens before those of illegal immigrants who, it said, were casting a burden on the already depleting natural resources of the country in addition to posing a security threat.
“The Constitution makes it abundantly 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 the resources of the nation are utilised to fulfil the fundamental rights of its own citizens and are not diverted to the detriment of the citizens, due to influx of illegal migrants into the territory of India,” said the affidavit.