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Un-precedented plea in SC by UN cites fundamental principle of non-refoulement

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New Delhi, Mar 03: The United Nations in an unprecedented move, approached the Supreme Court against India's decisions to implement the citizenship law that aims at giving a home to the persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The United Nations said that while it is a worthy and commendable objective, it raises a number of issues related to India's wider human rights obligations in the context of fundamental principle of non-refoulement.

Un-precedented plea in SC by UN cites fundamental principle of non-refoulement

Refoulement is the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.

Citizenship Act 'internal matter', says India as UN body files intervention application in SC

The principle of non-refoulement is enshrined in international human rights laws. Non-refoulement under the refugee law prohibits return in any manner whatsoever to threats to life or freedom on five grounds, but is not restricted to religion, the UN said in an intervening application.Under international human rights law return is prohibited where there is a real risk of the individual suffering irreparable harm, which is a concept broader than persecution and does not require the risk of harm to be linked to a specific ground.

Under the international human rights law, the principle of non-refoulement prohibits the expulsion, return or extradition of a person in the territory of a state or under its jurisdiction or effective control to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to irreparable harm such as violation of right to life, torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance, among others, the application further states.

The principle applies to all forms of exclusion or return of persons regardless of their nationality, legal status, immigration status, statelessness or citizenship. The question arises as to whether the differentiation made with regard to the persecution on religious grounds as opposed to other grounds is sufficiently objective and reasonable, in particular taking into account the prohibition of refoulement and India's obligations under the international human rights law.

The application broadly states that the new law puts Muslim migrants at risk and that the law has issues of reasonableness and objectivity. It further states that the new law may not in sync with India's commitment to international covenants.

Explainer: Why state government resolution against citizenship law has no legal sanctity

India meanwhile said that its permanent mission in Geneva was informed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet about the intervening application. This is India's internal matter and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws. We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus stand on the issues pertaining to India's sovereignty, the MEA said.

India maintained that the new law is constitutionally valid and complies with the requirements of our constitutional values. It is reflective of our long standing commitment in respect of human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the partition of India.

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