New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Central government to file a comprehensive report detailing the facilities being provided to Rohingya refugees staying at two camps in Haryana, saying “let us try to solve human problems first”.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said the report should be based on data about basic facilities like water, hygiene, toilets and medical facilities being provided to the Rohingyas in the Mewat and Faridabad camps.
The court order came as the Central government said it could not offer Rohingya refugees more basic facilities than what it was providing its own people including those living in slums.
The next hearing will take place on May 9 when the report will be considered.
Facing a mounting attack by the refugees’s petitioner on the denial of basic facilities, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta raised questions on the spate of petitions filed on behalf of Rohingyas — a point he had made during the last hearing.
The government on March 19 questioned the credentials of the petitioners seeking to block deportation of Rohingya refugees, saying the genesis of the PILs threaten to change the country’s demography and destabilise it.
The petitioners on Monday demanded a court commissioner be sent to inquire into the conditions of the camps while senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan urged the court to ask the National Human Rights Commission — which he described as the custodian of human rights, civil liberty and socio-economic charter — to submit a report on the condition of refugees in Rohingya camps.
Both the suggestions were resisted by the government with Mehta offering to file the report.
The petitioners said the basic facilities that a human being should get under the Constitution’s Article 21 were being denied to Rohingya refugees.
Telling the court that Rohingyas were living in pathetic conditions, Dhavan said Rohingya refugees were a “separate class of people who have nowhere to go. They have no means to support themselves. This is a peculiar situation which is not there in any slums…”.
As Justice Chandrachud said the fundamental right to life is not just confined to Rohingya refugees but to every slum dweller, Dhavan said an Indian slum dweller can approach the elected representatives for help but Rohingyas can’t.
“They are helpless. They can’t approach anybody. Can’t go to anyone,” Dhavan said pointing out that “they are the most powerless of the powerless. They too have rights under Article 21”.
Making common cause with the Central government, senior counsel Mahesh Jethmalani said he supported the position taken by it and there could be no “privilege enclave” for Rohingya refugees.
Jethmalani appeared for one of those supporting the government’s stand on Rohingya refugees.
Defending the “push back” policy to prevent the Rohingya refugees from crossing the border into India, he said accommodating Rohingyas who have already entered was itself a difficult task.
He said “we can’t throw open our border and allow Rohingyas to come” as he taunted the “public spirited” petitioners to also see what happening the next door.