Day 6 Arguments: 9th April, 2018.

In the previous hearing, the court had directed the Centre to file a comprehensive report on the conditions in the Rohingya refugee camps especially in the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, and Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Today the petitioners argued that only 2 out of the 11 settlements were visited. They alleged that the Rohingyas have been rendered homeless and are living in deplorable conditions, with 600 refugees using 6 toilets.

 

Mr Tushar Mehta, arguing for the Centre, promised to file a comprehensive report and requested that the proceedings not be turned adversarial. He stressed that the State is not discriminating against the Rohingyas. He said that the State can only extend only those benefits which the citizens of the country are getting, and 'nothing extra'. He pointed out that the citizens live with refugees in the slums of Mewat, Haryana. There has been no discrimination between the two.  Additionally, he stated that the refugees have 'come from elsewhere' and settled in 'as far as Jammu'. He asked that the 'methodical manner in which (the Rohingyas) have settled must be seen'. At this point, Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked if other slum dwellings have been surveyed, to which the petitioners alleged that they have not.

 

Mr Prashant Bhushan, arguing for the petitioners, pointed out that the court has held in the past that even non-citizens must be given basic amenities. At this point, Mr Mehta argued that the petitioners are only concerned with the Rohingyas and not the state of slum dwellers. Justice Chandrachud observed that this issue is broadly concerned with human rights, and cannot be limited to just the Rohingyas.

 

At this point, Mr Rajeev Dhawan said that the question is whether the Rohingyas are a special class or not. He argued that the Rohingya refugees are a special class since they have nowhere else to go. Other petitioners argued that human dignity is at the core of the Constitution, and the current treatment of the Rohingyas is a matter of emergency. Mr Tushar Mehta quipped that this 'emergency' has been going on for ten years. He alleged that there is a dispute about the facts, which will be cleared when the Union files a comprehensive report. Justice Chandrachud agreed that a comprehensive report is needed, and the report submitted today does not provide adequate information.

 

Mr Prashant Bhushan protested, saying that the matter listed for final hearing today was to settle two issues: push-back at the borders and human right violations against the Rohingya. Mr Mehta said that the question of pushback is being argued at a diplomatic level. Chief Justice Dipak Misra rejected Mr Bhushan's request to appoint an independent body to look into these issues, and asked the Centre to file a comprehensive report within 4 weeks.

 

The matter is scheduled to be heard next on May 8, 2018.

(This post relies on the contributions of Mr. Ayush Puri.)