International consequences doesn't mean you will endanger lives of people in Delhi: Delhi HC in plea against Afghan refugees outside UNHCR

The Delhi High Court today has issued notice in a plea filed by Vasant Vihar Welfare Association against the gathering of foreign Afghan nationals (refugees/asylum seekers) outside the office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees building.

The association approached the court with a grievance against the squatting and dwelling of a large number of asylum seekers and foreign nationals in common spaces of the locality. It said such squatting is causing hindrance in the enjoyment of the same and is also creating a possibility of the spread of coronavirus as there is no mechanism for ensuring that proper Covid-19 protocol is observed by the said individuals who probably are not even vaccinated.

Protest should not result in Covid-19 super spreader event, says Justice Rekha Palli

A single-judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli said the protest should not result in a super spreader event of coronavirus while issuing notice to the Centre, Delhi Government, Commissioner of Police, South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and Delhi Jal Board.  

The Court noted that Counsels for the Centre, Ministry of External Affairs, Delhi Police and Delhi Government sought time to take instructions as to how the issue can be resolved at the earliest so that these gatherings do not act as super spreader of Covid-19. 

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The High Court directed the counsels for Delhi Police and Delhi government to inform the court as to whether any guidelines have been finalised in terms of the decision by the Apex Court in the matter of Mazdoor Kissan Shakti Sangathan v. UOI. And if not the reasons therefore. 

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The court directed the Delhi Police, GNCTD and Union to bring a proposal to relocate the foreign nationals from the locality and ensure Covid norms are followed. The matter would now be heard on September 3. The Court will consider on that day whether there is need to file a counter-affidavit. The Court has asked the Counsels to take steps in the matter effectively. 

Afghan refugees at UNHCR office in Vasant Vihar B block

The present plea has been filed by “Vasant Vihar Welfare Association” seeking directions to the Union of India, Commissioner of Police (Delhi Police, Government of NCT of Delhi and South Delhi Municipal Corporation to take note of the foreign nationals (refugees/asylum seekers) who have started gathering, squatting and dwelling in temporary structures outside the office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (hereinafter also referred to as ‘UNHCR’) at B Block, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi including lanes and parks adjoining it and remove the aforementioned individuals from the locality by settling them in appropriate dwellings or camps.

The Petitioners apprehends that if no respite is provided by the Respondents to the foreign nationals and the number of such persons keep increasing, the same could be a recipe of disaster in terms of public order as there is a possibility of the protest becoming violent and the pent-up anger of the foreign nationals being unleashed on the locality while treating the public and private property along with the unsuspecting residents.

The petitioners prays to the court that the respondents be directed to ensure that there is no encroachment in Petitioners’ vicinity, clear passage of way, compliance of COVID-19 protocol by the Asylum seekers/Refugees, and maintenance of security.

Arguments raised

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the foreign nationals who are protesting sitting close to each other and is likely to be a super spreader of corona virus and prays that the respondents be directed to remove the protestors from the locality. 

The counsel for the Centre Ajay Digpaul submitted that interim Arrangements can be made as there will be some international consequences and this crowding needs to be resolved by the Delhi police and SDMC so that there is no spreading of corona virus.

“International consequences does not mean that in Delhi you will endanger the lives of people,” Justice Rekha Palli replied.

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The standing counsel of GNCTD, Satyakam submitted that the law and order situation has to be handled and meanwhile binding has to be made by the Delhi Police and SDMC.

In the course of hearing, the learned counsels for the respondents prays for the time as to how the issues can be resolved at the earliest that these gatherings does not lead to super spread of Covid 19 as per the order.

The court observed that the there is a need of a proposal to relocate the foreign nationals from the locality and strict adherence to Covid protocols and safety measures are need to be taken by the officials.