The apex court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud gave the Centre time till March 16 to file the response as Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that he has received instructions to respond to the plea for halt to the pushback of Rohingya refugees and for improved living conditions in their camps.
The court directed the next hearing of the matter on March 19.
In the last hearing of the matter on January 31, ASG Mehta had told the court not to interfere in the matter as “constitutionally empowered executive was seized of the matter and the diplomatic process is on to deal with the situation”.
The petitioner Mohammad Salimullah — a Rohingya refugee himself — had filed an application on January 30 seeking a halt to the pushback policy of the Border Security Force (BSF) at the border and for improved living conditions in Rohingya refugee camps.
Appearing for the petitioner Mohammad Salimullah, counsel Prashant Bhushan said that Rohingya refugees be extended the same facilities that were being made available to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who have arrived in Tamil Nadu for safe shelter.
Bhushan in the last hearing of the matter on January 31 had complained that the BSF was preventing Rohingya refugees from crossing over from Bangladesh and Myanmar borders by “sprinkling chilli powder”.
He had said that pushback was not only occurring on the borders with Bangladesh but also in the states that share a border with Myanmar, and had cited BSF chief K.K. Sharma’s statement saying that it is their policy to push back the Rohingya refugees seeking to enter India instead of arresting them.
Bhushan had said that pushing back Rohingya refugees, who are fleeing their country to save their lives, was in breach of the international conventions on refugees.
However, in a retort, ASG Mehta had said on January 31 that “we don’t want India to be the refugee capital of the world,” as Bhushan had told the court that BSF was using chilli powder and stun grenades to push back the refugees who are fleeing for their lives.