Manipur government told to ensure safe passage of seven Myanmar nationals to Imphal

The Manipur High Court on Wednesday directed the state government to make arrangement for the safe passage of Myanmar nationals, who are taking refuge at Moreh to Imphal.

Manipur High Court (PHOTO: IFP)

The Manipur High Court has directed state government to make arrangement to provide transport and safe passage for seven Myanmar nationals, who are taking refuge at Moreh to Imphal.

A division bench of the High Court comprising the Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Lanusungkum Jamir issued the directive on Wednesday in response to a petition filed by one Nandita Haksar.

While granting the interim relief for arrangement of safe transport, the court observed that the principle of non-refoulement can prima facie be read within the ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution.

The petition sought direction upon the state of Manipur for providing safe passage to seven Myanmar nationals, including four adults and three children to Delhi. The Myanmarese presently taking refuge at Moreh in Tengnoupal district, Manipur.

The passage to Delhi would enable them to seek protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, added the petitioner.

During the course of hearing on April 17, the court impleaded Ministries of Home Affairs, Defence, and External Affairs, and adjourned the matter to enable the learned counsel for the state and Central government to obtain necessary instructions.

Against this backdrop, the petitioner prayed for interim relief to take the refugees to Imphal.

To this, the additional solicitor general relied on a letter issued by the Home Affairs Ministry on March 10, 2021, wherein it was stated that necessary steps should be taken to prevent possible illegal influx from Myanmar into Indian Territory, and to initiate legal proceedings against illegal migrants.

The High Court, however, stated that it 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.

“The protection afforded by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is not limited to citizens and can be availed by non-citizens also”, it stated. 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 High Court observed. Subsequently, High Court granted the interim relief.

It directed the petitioner to accompany the deputy commissioner of Tengnoupal, to the location where the seven persons are in hiding so that they may be given safe transport to Imphal under appropriate escort.

Before they are brought to Imphal, the District authorities at Moreh are permitted to take the seven individuals to the senior immigration officer in 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 under adequate security and guard till the next hearing of April 26, it added.

First Published:April 22, 2021, 2:42 p.m.

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