Bhushan wants facilities for Rohingyas; what about Indian slum dwellers, asks SC

'Let us solve the human problem first,' the bench said when lawyer Prashant Bhushan, counsel for Rohingyas, alleged that the hearing in the main case has been getting adjourned repeatedly; the ASG prevaricated on the issue

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New Delhi: Hearing the petitions filed by some Rohingyas backed by lawyers Prashant Bhushan, CU Singh, Rajeev Dhavan and Indian National Congress (INC) leader Ashwini Kumar, the Supreme Court today asked the Centre to file a comprehensive status report in four weeks on the civic amenities at two Rohingya camps in Delhi and Haryana. It was alleged that even basic facilities like drinking water and toilets were not available in these camps.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also raised the issue whether it can entertain a plea seeking civic facilities for Rohingyas only at the slums, where poor Indians were also deprived of these amenities.

“Apart from these two places, there are so many slums in Delhi where basic facilities are not there. We cannot confine ourselves only to these two Rohingyas camps,” a bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said.

The bench was to commence the final hearing on the petitions, including one filed by two Rohingyas, Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, challenging the Centre’s decision to deport over 40,000 refugees who came to India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination and violence against the community.

“Let us solve the human problem first,” the bench said when lawyer Prashant Bhushan, counsel for Rohingyas, alleged that the hearing in the main case has been getting adjourned.

The bench then asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, to file comprehensive status reports containing data on basic facilities being provided at present at Mewat in Faridabad and Kalindi Kunj in Delhi where Rohingyas are putting up currently.

The ASG urged the court not to go ahead with the final hearing as the central government was trying to find a solution through diplomatic channels.

At the outset, senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for another petitioner Zaffar Ullah, alleged that basic amenities like drinking water and toilets were not available at the Rohingya camps, which has led to a situation where the refugees were suffering from diarrhoea and other diseases.

The submission was supported by another senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan who said that Rohingyas were the worst sufferers as they cannot work or approach the lawmakers as they are not voters.

“Rohingyas have no place to go to get their human problems solved,” he said, adding that they too had the right to life.

The ASG said though he was not taking an adversarial stand in the matter, the point was that the NGOs and activists did not care about the poor Indian slum dwellers living alongside these illegal immigrants.

There was a sudden “efflux” in the number of petitions in recent times, he said and took strong note of submission of senior lawyer and Congress leader Ashwini Kumar by saying that this problem has been there for the past 10 years and suddenly, as per them, the situation has become grave.

When Bhushan raised the prayers made in the petition that the Rohingyas were not allowed inside India and basic facilities were being denied to them, the ASG retorted by saying “public interest cannot be selective and he (Bhushan) wants that the international borders be opened”.

The bench posted the matter for hearing on 9 May and asked the Centre to file the report before three days of the next date.

The Rohingya refugees have sought permission to enter India, besides education and healthcare facilities and grant of refugee ID cards by the Foreigner Regional Registration Office. They had earlier approached the apex court opposing the Centre’s decision to deport over 40,000 refugees who infiltrated India after escaping from Myanmar following alleged discrimination and violence against the community.

The Rohingyas, who fled to India after violence in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar, are settled in West Bengal, Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.