In last hearing on 9th April, Centre was asked to submit a report on conditions in Rohingya Refugee Camps in Delhi and Haryana. Today, the hearing began with an examination of the Centre’s Report. Mr Tushar Mehta, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) explained the findings to the court. He said that the general import of the report is that the camps have all basic facilities - electricity, proximity to health centres, schools, water supply. Camp residents are tested for communicable disease, immunization drives are carried out and free ambulance services are also provided. He concluded from the report that Rohingya are not being discriminated against despite being illegal immigrants and are treated on par with Indian citizens.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra enquired if there are any toilet facilities in the Camp? Mr. Colin Gonsalves representing one of the petitioners responded that there are no toliets but holes are dug which are treated as toilets. Mr. Mehta said that the Report does not provide a figure on toilets but there is no open defecation. He added that lack of toilets is a problem in many parts of India and State cannot make a distinction between different parts of the same locality by constructing toilets exclusively for Rohingya.
Justice Chandrachud said that a virtue should not be made of the race to the bottom and welfare state cannot justify conditions on such a basis. Mr. Prashant Bhushan, counsel for petitioner brought to the court’s attention that one camp in Delhi was burnt to the ground by someone, who boasted about it on twitter. Mr. Mehta asked Mr. Bhushan to submit it on an affidavit and then, the court can examine the claim.
Mr. Bhushan requested the bench to appoint a court commissioner to verify these claims because the ground realities are different from what is being claimed in the report. Mr. Rajeev Dhavan said that Mr. Mehta’s claim that there are worse-off citizens than Rohingya should be criticised. He said that from Rawl’s to present theory, equality goes upwards and not downwards. Secondly, as devil lies in the detail so there is a need to see if camps have sufficient access to water, medicines, schools as promised. He requested the bench to form a high powered committee to examine the claims of the Report.
Mr. Dhavan continued that Rohingya should be examined based on ‘need’. There are objective standards of livelihood, the standard for water, medicine and schooling and their conditions should be examined in relation to these standards. CJI gave following directions: Sub Divisional Magistrates of the concerned areas shall be appointed as a nodal officer. Parents of children can take their grievances to such officers if any facilities mentioned in the status report are denied to them. The matter is posted for 23rd August.
(The Report relies on inputs from Ms. Ashrutha Rai)