Legal notice served on Supreme Court over Rohingya refugees

In an unusual and unprecedented development, a legal notice has been served on the Supreme Court on behalf of 16,424 Indian citizens challenging the apex court’s decision to hear a petition to examine if refugee status can be given to Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar to India.

The notice sent by an advocate, Vibhor Anand, to the Supreme Court on August 4, through its secretary general, said that he had been authorised by the 16,424 citizens living in various parts of the country to serve the legal notice so that the top court opens its eyes and ears to the voices of the majority population of India.

Arguing that Rohingya Muslims were a security threat to the country, Anand, in the legal notice, said the Supreme Court decision had created a lot of anger among the people of the country and that the court was biased in its approach in taking up the case when more important cases were pending.

Anand said these 16,424 people include Kashmiri Pandits, retired army officers and civil servants. He said they had responded when he sought individual views through WhatsApp and emails on the issue of Rohingya Muslims.

“These people have authorized me to serve the notice on Supreme Court of India,” he said. If the top court doesn’t pay heed to the notice, he would be constrained to file 16,424 individual public interest litigations (PILs) and file a “petition in the Supreme Court against the Supreme Court,” he said.

Last year, two Rohingya men moved the Supreme Court against the Centre’s proposed plan to deport 40,000 members of the community to the land of their origin, Myanmar.

It is estimated that some 40,000 Rohingya live in the country in camps across the country, including the capital New Delhi, having arrived over the years after fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, which denies them citizenship.

In the Supreme Court, the central government has taken the stand that the country cannot become the refugee capital of the world and has defended the Border Security Force’s efforts, using chilli spray and stun grenades, to push back Rohingya Muslims seeking to cross the border.

Reacting to news of the notice, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted: “Got word that some well meaning lawyer has sent a legal notice to Supreme Court on the issue of Rohingya refugees. Have been a practising advocate for nearly 3 decades, this is historic and unheard of.”

Supreme Court advocate Viplav Sharma said a notice being served on the Supreme Court was practically unheard of. “Legal notices are not served on court but parties to a dispute. So when a notice is sent to the court it becomes unprecedented,” Sharma said.

Senior advocate and former Supreme Court bar association president Vikas Singh said, “ This kind of a notice is completely unheard of. It looks like a publicity stunt”.