On September 7, the Supreme Court heard the case of a 14-year-old Rohingya girl facing deportation from India to Myanmar. A bench of Justices Abdul Nazeer and V Ramasubramanian questioned the Central Government’s intentions of leaving a minor girl at the Myanmar border, especially when her parents who have sought asylum in Bangladesh want her back.
The Supreme Court bench was hearing a petition filed by an NGO seeking permission to provide foster care to the girl, a Rohingya refugee.
The Court had earlier issued notice in a writ petition filed by the NGO against the deportation of the Rohingya teenage girl from India to Myanmar. The NGO Global Peace Initiative had sought permission to foster the girl who, it says, is about to be transported to Myanmar from an orphanage in Assam while her parents are stationed in Bangladesh.
In the petition, the girl’s father wrote to the UNHRC in October 2019 asking for information regarding his daughter’s whereabouts. According to the petition, Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees everyone, even those who are not citizens, the right to life. It said that what was at issue in this case was a child’s right to life and liberty as well as the parents’ right to see their daughter. The NGO pleaded with the court to stop sending the girl back to Myanmar, where it is alleged that crimes have been committed against members of the Rohingya community.
The Petitioner has also relied on the Top Court’s judgment in Mohammad Salimullah v. Union of India wherein the Court had held that the Rohingyas can be deported only after following due process. To further substantiate their contention, NGO in its writ has referred to the judgments in Louis De Raedt v. Union of India and National Human Rights Commission v. State of Arunachal Pradesh & Anr wherein it was observed that foreigners are entitled to the protection of Article 21 of the Constitution.
The bench was not fully convinced about handing over the girl to the NGO (Global Peace Initiative). Similar reservations were also expressed by the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that the said NGO is one of the largest evangelical organisations and has a large number of women involved in social service. Advocate Hegde then argued that the real issue is that she’s stuck in a camp in Assam, and her parents have requested the organisation to help them in facilitating the process of reuniting the family. He clarified that tshe NGO is not seeking permanent custody of the child.
At this point SG Mehta aid that the minor girl is not in camp but in a Nari Nikathen. He also added that writing a letter to the NGO to take custody of the child seems suspicious. Then Advocate Hegde offered to get the credentials of the organisation.
SG Mehta then brought up the issue of necessity of deporting an illegal migrant who enters the territory of India. The Bench then pointed out that she is minor and, according to LiveLaw, said, “She’s a minor. Parents want child to send back to them. There can’t be any objection to that, right?”
SG Mehta then said that the identities of the parents are yet to be verified. He said “We can’t be sure if people receiving there are parents. These are issues which the government will have to consider.” When the Bench enquired the stand of the government in the said issue, SG Mehta said that they intent to send the girl back to her country of origin.
LiveLaw reported that the Bench then asked, “To leave a minor girl at the border of Myanmar, is that an option? When somebody wants the girl back?” Along with this, the Bench said that the identities of the parents must be checked. “We need to be sure of the real parents. Otherwise, we will be guilty…And our worry, another aspect, it’s a minor girl, she should not go to wrong hands. We are trying to trust this letter. Our effort is, it should not be misused.”
Advocate Hegde then said that he will attempt to provide substantial proof. “We are not convinced that child should be given to them”, the Bench remarked, before the matter was adjourned for six weeks.