Tablighi Jamaat case: All blacklisted foreign nationals can challenge individual orders against them before HCs, says SC
The petitioners had contended that the en-masse blacklisting of foreigners without any opportunity to defend themselves is a blatant violation of Article 21
The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that it has issued individual orders on a case-to-case basis for cancellation of visas and blacklisting of over 2,500 foreign nationals, who had taken part in the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi's Nizamuddin area.
As per the information available, 205 FIRs have been lodged against the foreign Tablighi Jamaat members by 11 states and 2,765 such foreigners have been blacklisted so far, while visas of 2,679 foreigners (including 9 Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders) have been cancelled, it said.
The top court was also informed by the Centre that 1,906 Look Out Circulars (LOCs) were issued against foreign Tablighi Jamaat members and 227 left India before the issuance of LOCs/Black Listing.
The foreign nationals told the top court that around 1,500 one-liner e-mails were sent to them with regard to cancellation of visas but there was no show cause notice for blacklisting from travel to India for 10 years.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna posted the matter for further hearing on 10 July and asked the petitioners to file a rejoinder affidavit to the Centre's reply and make appropriate representation with the competent authority with regard to deportation.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said it has filed an affidavit stating that individual orders were passed with regard to the cancellation of visas and blacklisting of individuals on case-to-case basis.
He said the grant of visa is not an enforceable right, let alone a fundamental right, and these foreigners were not only blacklisted but there are criminal charges pending against them and will be prosecuted under Foreigners Act.
Grant of visa is a plenary sovereign function of the Centre and across the world and if they have committed an offence, these foreigners have to be tried, he said, adding that no foreign Tabligh Jamaat member has been deported till now as criminal proceedings are going on against them.
Senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for these citizens from over 35 countries said that if there was any violation of visa norms, they can be deported to their parent country.
He said that the Centre is saying that case to case orders were passed but only around 1,500 one-liner e-mails were sent to them about the visa cancellation and there was nothing about blacklisting from travel to India for ten years.
The bench told Singh that they can challenge these individual orders of Centre before the High Court as the court needs to see whether it is a well-reasoned order or a mechanical one.
Singh contended that they need to be deported as blacklisting would come into picture, if the foreign nationals try to enter India.
The bench, said that deportation would come into picture, if there are non-pendency of cases against these foreigners.
It asked the Centre to file the orders passed with regard to visa cancellation with the court and also circulate among lawyers for the petitioners.
The Centre in its affidavit filed on Thursday said that these foreign nationals are spread across various parts of the country,some of who are still to be located, the execution of the orders would take place at the time of the exit of the said foreigners at the port of exit.
"It is submitted that since the petitioners and other persons have been found to be breaching the conditions of the visa granted to them, committing criminal offences, etc..., the said persons are being investigate/ prosecuted as the procedure established by law," it said, adding that the cancellation of e-visa has been intimated to foreigners, who were one-visa, by e-mail but some on regular visa could not be intimated as their e-mail ids were not available.
On 29 June, the top court had asked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to clarify its stand about the status of visa of these citizens from 35 countries, who were blacklisted for ten years for their alleged involvement in Tablighi Jamaat activities.
The top court had asked the Centre to place on record whether individual notices were issued with regard to cancellation of visas of the foreign nationals.
It had said that the notification of MHA says the decision has to be taken on a case to case basis by the authorities and it needs to be found out whether any such orders were passed.
Four petitions have been filed by 34 individuals, including a Thai national who is seven months pregnant, challenging the Centre's orders of 2 April and 4 June by which over 2,500 foreign nationals,who are currently in India, were blacklisted.
The petitions, filed through advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi and drafted by advocates Ibad Mushtaq and Ashima Mandla, have contended that the en-masse blacklisting of foreigners without any opportunity to defend themselves is a blatant violation of Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.
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