Tablighi Jamaat: SC seeks facts from MHA on blacklisting, visa cancellation

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Central government to find out the facts related to blacklisting and canceling of visas of foreign nationals who attended the congregation of Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin area here.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar and also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna asked the Centre to find out the facts related to the matter and fixed it for further hearing on July 2.

The apex court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta "if visas of these foreigners are canceled, then why are they still in India?"

"You (Centre) can deport them. If visas are not canceled, then, it is a different situation," the court said. The top court was hearing a number of petitions challenging blacklisting and cancellation of visas filed by few foreigners.

Mehta sought more time to file a reply on the matter, after which the court posted the matter for further hearing on July 2.

The petitions, filed by the foreign nationals from 35 countries, have sought directions to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to remove their names from the blacklist, reinstate their visas and facilitate their return to their respective countries.

The petitions sought to declare the decision of the MHA of blacklisting the foreign nationals who attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation as "arbitrary".

"Unilateral blacklisting of 960 foreigners by the Home Ministry vide press release dated April 2, 2020, and the subsequent blacklisting of around 2500 foreigners as reported on June 4, 2020, is in violation of Article 21. Therefore, it is void and unconstitutional as the petitioners have neither been provided any hearing nor notice or intimation in this regard," the plea said.

One of the petitioners named Fareedah Cheema, a Thai national in the seventh month of her pregnancy, said she was quarantined in March, like other foreign nationals but was released from quarantine only in late May and is still at a facility under restricted movements, without the avenue to go back to her home nation and experience the birth of her child with security and dignity, with her loved ones.

These foreign nationals presently in India were blacklisted for a period of 10 years from traveling to India for their alleged involvement in Tablighi Jamaat activities.

The Home Ministry had said that foreign Tablighi Jamaat members, who were staying in India in violation of visa rules during the nationwide lockdown implemented to combat the COVID-19 spread, have been blacklisted.

A large congregation organised by Tablighi Jamaat in the national capital in March had emerged as a major COVID-19 hotspot in the country.

The government had said the decision of banning the foreign Tablighi Jamaat members was taken after details of foreigners found illegally living in mosques and religious places emerged from various states across the country.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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