The Manipur High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to arrange for the transportation and safe passage of seven Myanmar nationals seeking refuge in Moreh to Imphal.
The division bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Lanusungkum Jamir passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Nandita Haksar.
The observation came in a petition filed by Haksar seeking directions to the state of Manipur for providing a safe passage to 7 Myanmar-based persons, including four adults and three children, for enabling them to travel to Delhi in order to seek protection from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Vasant Vihar, New Delhi.
Earlier, the Court has suo motu impleaded the ministries of Home Affairs, Defence, and External Affairs. Meanwhile, the petitioner sought interim relief in the form of making necessary arrangements to bring the Myanmar nationals from Moreh to Imphal in terms of the March 29 order of the Manipur Home Department which made it clear that the state was taking all humanitarian steps, including taking injured Myanmar nationals to Imphal for providing them aid.
During the course of hearing, reliance was made by the S. Suresh, Additional Solicitor General, on a letter issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs dated March 10, 2021 wherein it was stated that necessary steps should be taken in order to prevent possible illegal influx from Myanmar into Indian territory and to initiate legal proceedings against illegal migrants.
“The Court is conscious of the fact that India is not a signatory to the Geneva Refugee Convention, 1951, or the New York Protocol of 1967. However, it is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That apart, the protection afforded by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is not limited to citizens and can be availed by non-citizens also. The principle against refoulement, i.e., the forcible return of refugees to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution, can prima facie be read into Article 21 of the Indian Constitution,” the Court observed.
The Court held, “These aspects require further examination, but in the meanwhile, as we are informed that these seven persons need to be protected and are under constant threat of apprehension/ deportation by the authorities, there shall be a direction to respondents to forthwith arrange for the safe transport and passage of these seven Myanmarese individuals from Moreh in Tengnoupal District to Imphal.
“It would be open to the State authorities to arrange for necessary security at the residence of the petitioner/party-in-person after these seven individuals are brought there, so as to ensure their protection and also to curb their further movement. Before they are brought to Imphal, the District authorities at Moreh are permitted to take these seven individuals to the Senior Immigration Officer at Moreh for the purpose of noting their details and also obtaining their biographic and biometric particulars. Thereafter, they shall be brought safely under escort to Imphal and stationed at the residence of the petitioner/party-in-person under adequate security and guard till the next date of hearing,” the Court ordered.
“It is also made clear that, pending further orders, no coercive steps or adverse action shall be taken in relation to these seven
Myanmarese persons, be it by the State or by the Central Government authorities”, the Court said.
The Court has fixed the next hearing of the Petition on April 26, Monday.