Referring to diametrically opposite views on the stay of Rohingya Muslims in India, the Supreme Court admitted on Tuesday that it was dealing with “a case of such nature for the first time”.
The chasm between the stands of additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta for the government on one side and an impressive line-up of advocates — Fali S Nariman, Prashant Bhushan, Colin Gonsalves, Salman Khurshid (all for Rohingyas), Kalyan Banerjee (West Bengal government) and Rajeev Dhavan (National Human Rights Commission) — on the other was so stark that it boiled down to seasoned lawyers making personal comments.
It started with Dhavan making light of Mehta’s arguments by saying, “The Centre does not understand the concept of refugees at all.”
A bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud stepped in quickly to quell the volatility and said, “We do not like personal comments being made by counsel. We will not allow this. We will deal with issues squarely arising from the case — whether or not the SC can go into the correctness of the Centre’s decision on Rohingya and other contours of the issue.” The SC will hear the case on October 13.
With the NHRC and the Centre pitted against each other, Nariman lightened the moment by saying, “I am the original refugee from Burma (Myanmar). I had migrated from British Burma to British India (during World War II after the Japanese invasion).” Nariman went on to point out how the NDA government had framed a compassionate policy towards refugees in September 2015, contemplating long-term stay permits for them.
“What came over the government and minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju I don’t know. But the August 8 directive to all states to identify Rohingya Muslims for deportation was shocking to say the least. That too after India in many forums had advocated sharing of the burden of refugees by all countries. To aggravate the mistake, the Centre is taking a stand that its decision to identify and deport Rohingya Muslims could not be adjudicated by the Supreme Court. This is unacceptable in a country governed by rule of law,” he said.
“The central government has contemporaneous inputs from security agencies and other authentic material indicating linkages of some of the unauthorised Rohingya immigrants with Pakistan-based and other terror organisations.”