Manipur HC directs state to provide safe passage to seven Myanmar refugees

Manipur HC directs state to provide safe passage to seven Myanmar refugees

The High Court of Manipur has directed the state government to make arrangements for transport and safe passage of seven Myanmar nationals, who are taking shelter in Moreh, to Imphal.

The directive was issued by a division bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kumar and Lunasungkum Jamir.

The court also directed that no coercive steps or adverse action shall be taken against the Myanmar nationals, be it by the state or the central government authorities.

Granting interim relief, the division bench observed: “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’s order came on a plea by Nandita Haskar seeking a direction to the state of Manipur to provide safe passage to seven Myanmar nationals to New Delhi so as to enable them to seek protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  The Myanmar nationals, including four adults and three children, are taking refuge at the Moreh town, in Tengnoupal district of Manipur, said the petitioner.

Following the petition, the High Court impleaded the Ministry of Home Affairs, Defence and External Affairs as respondents.

During the hearing of the case, the Additional Solicitor General underscored the letter issued by the MHA (NE Division), Government of India, to the effect that steps should be taken to prevent possible illegal influx from Myanmar into Indian territory and initiate legal proceedings against illegal migrants.

To this, the court observed, “This 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”.

Before taking to Imphal, the district authority is directed to take the Myanmarese to a senior immigration officer at Moreh for the purpose of noting their details and also obtaining their biometric particulars.

The court is also directed to provide adequate security before the next hearing on April 26.

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