In August 2017, the Union government decided to deport 40,000 Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar. Two weeks later Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, UN-certified Rohingya refugees residing in India, challenged the decision before the Supreme Court. Customary international law prevents states from deporting refugees to the country where they face persecution.
India has not signed any international agreements on the protection of refugees. But it has historically accommodated refugee groups on humanitarian grounds and respected customary international law principles.
The petitioners argue that the deportation of Rohingya Muslims violates the right to equality as they are the only community among similarly placed immigrant groups in India to face deportation. They claim protection against deportation under Article 21’s right to life provision. While fundamental rights are generally only granted to citizens, the right to life can be availed by all persons.
On 9 July, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the substantial question of whether Rohingyas living in India are illegal immigrants or refugees.
A three judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose will likely hear the case next in mid-August.
SC Observer Desk
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