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Foreign Tablighi Jamaat members are free to return, Centre tells Supreme Court

A file photo of people being evacuated from the Tablighi Jamaat centre in Delhi for COVID-19 testing.

A file photo of people being evacuated from the Tablighi Jamaat centre in Delhi for COVID-19 testing.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

The Centre told the Supreme Court that foreign Tablighi Jamaat members are free to return to their countries regardless of their pending trial, provided they apologise for participating in a religious congregation in the National Capital during lockdown.

Also read: HC seeks response from Centre, police on foreigners’ pleas to quash FIRs

Ten of a total 34 foreigners who approached the apex court had not opted for plea bargaining.

A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar on Thursday transferred the cases of all the 10 petitioners facing trial to a court at Saket in southeast Delhi. The court ordered their trial to be completed expeditiously within eight weeks.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said look-out notices issued against the foreigners who approached the apex court have been withdrawn.

Also read: Court allows 34 Thai nationals to walk free on payment of ₹6,000 fine

“The Solicitor General has, in all fairness, submitted that if the petitioners concerned tender apology, as envisaged by the Madras High Court, they can be permitted to leave India despite the pendency of the criminal case but subject to such orders that may be passed by the concerned trial court,” the court order said.

In the last hearing, on July 27, senior advocate C.U. Singh, for some of the foreigners, had drawn the court’s attention to a system evolved by the Madras HC of releasing lockdown violators after obtaining an affidavit of apology from them.

The court had asked Mr. Mehta whether it was possible to use the same mechanism in this case and allow the foreigners to go home without delay. The court had said that priority should be given to the right to liberty of the foreign nationals.

Also read: Court allows 53 foreigners from 3 countries to walk free on payment of fine

Mr. Mehta has already informed that of the 34 petitioners in the Supreme Court, two have no cases against them and had approached the apex court owing to some “misconception”. Trial is over for 23 of the remaining 32 of the petitioners. All 23 had pleaded guilty under the plea-bargaining process and were set free by the Magistrate court after paying a fine. Only these nine are left.

Mr. Singh had pointed out that the foreigners facing trial are compelled to do so because conviction or pronouncement of guilt, even by plea-bargaining, would visit them with serious consequences in their native countries.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 12:27:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/foreign-tablighi-jamaat-members-are-free-to-return-centre-tells-supreme-court/article32286961.ece

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