The Centre on Wednesday submitted that it did not want India to become the refugee capital of the world in defence of allegations made by Rohingya refugees that Border Security Force (BSF) personnel were “pushing back” their compatriots at the borders with chilli spray and stun grenades.”We do not want India to become the refugee capital of the world. People from every other country will flood our country,” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta told a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.Mehta submitted this was not a matter where the court should intervene since the Centre was in talks with him and he should be allowed to take a decision.The bench that also comprised Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud have given Mehta time till March 7 to respond to the allegations made by the refugees who are being represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan.Arguing the case for the Centre, Mehta said the government was “constitutionally obliged” to decide on the Rohingya issue. “This is not a matter in which we can show any leniency,” Mehta added.However, Bhushan argued India had to honour its international humanitarian commitments and indulging in violence was contrary to its mandate.The refugees in the Indian camps are living in abject poverty and squalor, Bhushan pointed out. “The conditions are inhuman. There is no access to either schools or hospitals,” he said.However, Justice Chandrachud questioned whether the judicial standards in Indian court which was already acknowledging the humanitarian aspects of refugees already living on Indian soul is also applicable to those who were attempting to enter the country.Responding to this poser, senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan, an intervenor, said: “Somebody comes to your border and says ‘I am a refugee’. It has to be determined whether he is a refugee. He cannot be blindly pushed back… then what is the commitment of India to refugee determination? Several high courts have upheld the right to refugee determination. Let the government deal with it diplomatically, but this court should also decide on its own.”Senior advocate Ashwini Kumar also representing the refugees said “We cannot push them back to the jaws of death” and added that “minimum humanitarian morality” should be shown to the refugees at the border. “You cannot deny a man his right to life. The Supreme Court has to intervene as the ultimate protector of life,” Kumar submitted.However, representing the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, said the issue of how to deal with the refugees at the border must be diplomatically resolved.The top court was hearing a batch of petitions that sought a stay on the proposed deportation of the alleged 40,000-strong Rohingya community from India. Several petitions seeking the expulsion of the refugee community are also being heard in the top court.
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