Mr. Tapan K. Bose

The Indian government deal with at both political and administrative level. The result is that treated that under the law applicable to the aliens. In the case of refugees protection, the constitution of India guarantees certain fundamental rights, which are applicable to non-citizen. Namely, the rights to equality( Article 14 ), the rights life and personnel liberty (article 21) and the freedom to practice and propagate their own religion (article 25). Any violation of these rights can be remedied through recourse to the judiciary as the Indian Supreme Court has held that refugees or asylum seeker can not be discriminated against because of their non- citizen status.

The National Human Rights Commission of India ( NHRC ) has functioned effectively as a watchdog for the protection of refugees. The commission has approached the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution and obtained protection from the Chakma Refugees when their life and securities was threatened by local politician and youth leader in Arunachal Pradesh. Relief was granted by the Supreme Court on the basis of the rights aliens under Article 14 and 21.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ahmeadi in NHRC versus State of Arunachal Pradesh ( 1996 SCC 742 ) speaking for the Court said that the State is bound to protect the life liberty of every human being. He point out that the rights of refugees under the Constitution of India were confirmed by Article 21, which also included the rights to non-refoulement.

India refugees policy is further governed by certain administrative regulation. The standard of humane treatment set by these administrative regulations flowed from the ethos that persons displaced from their home need both protection and economic sustain. The administrative experience of the Ministry/Department of Rehabilitation and the laws adjudicated at the time of Partition contributed towards a refugees policy for India.

India, refugees are register under the 1939 Registration act, which applicable to all foreigner entering to India. Under the 1946 Foreigner Acts, the Govt. is empowered to regulate the entry, presence and departure aliens in India, though the word `` alien `` itself is nowhere defined. Entry as also governed by the passport Act 1967. Entry can be restricted if a person dose not have a valid passport or visa, though the Government can exempt person when so desires. These procedure are linked at this stage to individuals who enter India without a valid visa or any other document. Though it is related to illegal migrants, the exemption provision is applicable to refugees. Besides, refugees in developing countries, unlike those in the west ( barring those from former Yugoslavia ) usually descend in large numbers. Under these circumstances, refugees become an administrative to oversee the relief and rehabilitation process rather than to supervise who stays or dose not stay.

As mentioned previously , the government of India alone determine refugees status and has no specific legislation to deal with refugees. Prof. Saxeny of Jawaharlal Nehru University maintains despite this lacuna India dose apply in practice certain articles of the 1951 Convention. This includes :

. Article 7 as India provides refugees the same treatment as all aliens.

. Article 3 as India fully applies a policy of non – discrimination.

. Article 3A no penalty is imposed on illegal entry.

.Article 4 as religious freedom is guaranteed.

. Article 16 free access to courts is provided.

.Articles 17 and 18 provide wage-earning rights and as work permits have no meaning and refugees do work, this article is complied with.

. Article 21 freedom of housing allowed and refugees need stay in camps. Freedom of movement as guaranteed to aliens except in certain areas where special permits are required for aliens but also all Indians.

. Article 27 and 28 the issuing of identity and travel cards.

However, many activists have contested the assertion of Prof. Saxena. They point out that the majority of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and almost all Jammu/Chakma refugees were forced to live inside camps. Severe restriction were imposed on their freedom of movement. The asylum seeker from Burma were arrested and jailed and that 1995-97 approximately 5000 Chin/Burmese were pushed back. They also point out that as the government dose not issue "RESIDENCE PERMIT" to all refugees, they are unable to open bank account, rent house and set up any business. India educational institutions do not give admission to refugees. As a result young refugees unable pursue their academic career.

India is not a party to the 1951 UN Refugees Convention or its Protocol, its domestic laws have not been found to be in conflict with international laws. While it can be justifiably proud of having followed a program of humane treatment of different refugees, with respect to refugees rights, there is still an absence of assistance and opportunities. To protect the refuges by means of the activists approach has its own limitations.

Judicial Interpretations: Case Law in India

In India, the judiciary has played a very important role in protecting refugees. Court orders have filled legislative gaps and in many case provided a humanitarian solution to the refugees` problem. In India court have allowed refugees and intervening NGOs to file case before them. Further they have interpreted provisions of the Indian Constitution, exiting law, and in the absence of seekers. Given below is a summary of the type of protection that India court have provided to refugees.

Physical Security

India courts have decided in a number of cases that the Constitutional protection of life and liberty must be provided to refugees. In the cases of Luis de Readt ( 1991) 3 SCC 554 and Khudiriam ( nos. 1994 Supp. (1) SCC 615 , the Supreme held that Art. 21 of the Constitution of India , which protects the life, and liberty of Indian citizens are extended to all, including aliens.

Below are some of the most important decision of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the National Human Rights Commission versus State of Arunachal Pradesh case restrained forcible expulsion of Chakma Refugees from the state ( Civil WP No 720/95 : 1996 (1) Supreme 295 ). The Supreme Court in its interim order on November 2 1995 directed the State government to ensure that the Chakma situated in its is territory are ousted by any coercive action, not in accordance with law. The Court directed the state government to ensure that the life personnel liberty of each and every Chakma residing with the state shall be protected. Any attempt to forcibly evict of driven them out the state by organized groups shall be repelled by using para-military or police force and if additional force are required then the state should take the necessary steps. The court also decide that the Chakma shall not be evicted from their home except in accordance to the law; the quit notices and ultimatums given by other groups should be dealt with in accordance with the law; application for their Citizenship be forwarded and processed expeditiously ; the pending decision on these application shall not be evicted.

Non-Refoulement and Right to Refugees Status:

In a number of cases in India Court have protected the right of refugees where they are substantial ground to believe that life would be in danger. There are case where the courts have order the life of refugees who are in danger be safeguarded and have allowed them to be granted status by UNHCR.

In Zothansangpui verus State of Manipur ( C.R No.981 of 1989) The Gauhati – Imphal Bench, Guahati High Court ruled that refugees have the rights not to be deported if their life was in danger.

The case of U.Myat Kyaw versus State of Manipur ( Civil Rule No. 516 of 1991 has contributed substantially to India’s refugee policy. It involved eight Burmese, aged 12 to 58 years, which were detain for illegal entry at MANIPUR central jail, Imphal. These persons had participated in the democracy movement, voluntarily to the Indian authorities and taken into custody. Cases were registered under section 14 of the Foreigners Act for illegal entry into India. They petitioned for their release to enable them to seek refugee status before the UNHCR in New Delhi. The Gauhati High Court, under Art.21 ruled that asylum seekers who enter India ( even if illegally ) should be permitted to approach the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner to refugee to seek refugee status.

Deporting on grounds of National Security and Criminal Activities

The Court has ruled that refugees can be deported on the grounds of national security. Under the foreigner Act of 1946 if they were found indulging in activities undesirable and prejudicial to the Security of India. The High Court of Delhi at New Delhi ruled that International Law and Conventions cannot be applied to refugees indulging in criminal activities. They can be repatriated or deported.

Right to Leave (Return)

The Court has upheld a refugee’s right to leave the country. In Nuang Maung Mye Nyant versus Govt. of India and Shar Aung versus Govt. Of India ------ of 1998 , the courts ruled that even those refugees against whom cases were pending for illegal entry should be provided exit permits to enable them to leave the country for third country resettlement.

Application of International Laws for the protection of refugees

This included conformity with International Conventions and Treaties , although not enforceable , the government was obliged to respect them. But the power of the government to expel a foreigner is still absolute . Art. 21 guarantee the right to life for non -citizens. International Covenants and Treaties which effectuate the fundamental rights can be enforced. The principal of non-refoulement is encompassed in articles so long as it is not prejudicial to national security. Under Art 51 ( C ) and 253 international law and treaty obligation are to be respected, as long as they are consistent with domestic law.


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