Speed up cases against foreign Tablighi Jamaat members, SC tells district courts

A view of the Tablighi Jamaat Centre at Nizamuddin.  

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the district courts to expeditiously decide cases against foreign Tablighi Jamaat members who have been discharged of charges under the Foreigners Act and desire to leave the country.

A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar was hearing a batch of petitions filed by foreign Tablighi Jamaat members against FIRs registered against them for visa violations, which include participating in a congregation held in the National Capital during the pandemic lockdown.

Also read: Supreme Court slams Centre on Tablighi affidavit

The petitions had contended that the en masse blacklisting of foreigners from 35 nations, without affording them an opportunity to prima facie defend themselves, was an egregious and blatant violation of Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

Senior advocate Menaka Guruswamy, for the petitioners, said the cases registered against her clients had become a pretext for “protracted litigation”. She submitted that eight of the petitioners had been completely discharged of all allegations against them, but their applications for liberty to leave the country were still pending.

Senior advocate C.U. Singh, also for the petitioners, informed the Bench that 36 petitioners had been cleared of serious charges under Section14B (using forged passport to enter the country) of the Foreigners Act of 1946. But the police have filed applications for revision of their discharge and the hearings are on November 7 and 10.

‘Punitive process’

“This is a punitive sort of process,” Mr. Singh submitted.

The court agreed to hear the case further on November 20.

Four petitions, including one by a Thai national who is seven months pregnant, had challenged the Centre’s decision of April 2 to blacklist foreign nationals from travelling to India for the next 10 years.

The decision by its very unilateral nature, infringed the principle of natural justice, particularly audi alteram partem (hear the other side), by blacklisting foreigners present in India without first granting an opportunity of being heard or notice of any form, and resultantly depriving the aggrieved foreign nationals of their right of locomotion and travelling back to the country of their citizenship, the plea filed by the Thai woman said.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 3:38:41 PM |

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