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Delhi HC refers Rohingya woman matter to division bench in view of issue of personal liberty

New Delhi: A single-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has referred a matter of a Rohingya woman to a larger bench in view of the fact that it involves an issue of personal liberty.

The bench was hearing a petition moved by a woman whose sister is in a detention centre for a period of more than six months. The petitioner Sabera Khatoon has prayed for the basic facilities in the detention centre including sanitation and medical facilities for her sister Shadiya Akhtar who claims to be a refugee.

She also sought a direction to release her sister from the detention centre subject to certain conditions as the government was not able to deport her within a period of six months after detention.
After considering the submission made on behalf of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), Justice Prathiba M Singh on April 28 listed the matter before a division bench subject to the order of the Chief Justice.
The division bench will hear the matter on May 9.

It was submitted by the counsel for (DUSIB) that the matter involves the issue of personal liberty, and the matter ought to be listed before the Division bench.
The Counsel for DUSIB submitted that considering the nature of the matter, the case of the petitioner would have to be listed before the Division Bench in view of the notification dated February 14, 2023.

The notification explains, "The preliminary and final hearing of cases under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, relating to habeas corpus, preventive detention, mercy petition and commutation of the sentence of death, shall be before a Bench of two Judges."
The counsel also submitted that even on the civil side, if a case is relating to personal liberty, the matter ought to be listed before the Division Bench.

Meanwhile, the single judge granted liberty to the petitioner to file a reply to the status report of the Central Government and an affidavit filed by the DUSIB within a week.

It was submitted by the petitioner's advocate Ujjaini Chatterji that the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) has set out a standard operating procedure (SOP) to deal with foreign nationals who claim to be refugees. These SOPs are in the nature of internal guidelines and, therefore, they are required to be followed.

Sabera had also submitted that in cases in which diplomatic channels do not yield concrete results within a period of six months, the foreign national, who is not considered fit for grant of LTV, will be released from the detention centre subject to collection of biometric details, with conditions of local surety, good behaviour and monthly police reporting as an interim measure till the issue of travel documents and deportation.
The court earlier had impleaded MEA as a respondent in the matter and sought a status report if the feedback has been received from Myanmar.

The high court had sought a response from the FRRO on whether there is an objection if the petitioner's sister Shadiya is released from the detention centre subject to certain conditions imposed on her considering that Shadiya has a three-year-old son who is living with his aunt.
The bench had directed the Medical Superintendent of DDU Hospital to examine the petitioner's sister and file a status report on the medical conditions.

Earlier the court had directed that DUSIB shall undertake the work of renovation of the bathroom and toilet area within a week and shall file the photographs of the renovated bathroom by the next week, the High Court directed.

Earlier, it was submitted that Shadiya, who is a UNHCR card holder, is not being provided basic amenities like access to warm water, a bed, blanket, pillow, winter essentials and winter wear.
The petition has stated that Shadiya Akhtar is a Rohingya woman who escaped the brutal genocide in Myanmar against the Rohingya community in 2016 and sought asylum in India.

After a rigorous process of "Refugee Status Determination", she was granted "Refugee Status" and was given a United Nations refugee identity card within 3 months, the petition stated.
It is also stated that the petitioner's sister lived in a refugee camp at Kanchan Kunj for one year and then in 2017, she moved to Shram Vihar, Madanpur Khadar, New Delhi, after her marriage.

She lived in the refugee camp at Shram Vihar with her infant son, who is now 3 years old, until 2020. She has no criminal antecedents or complaints against her, it added.
Since 2016, she has lived in India in accordance with the laws of the country and has complied with all requirements of the Respondents and the UNHCR, the plea said. (ANI)

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