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SC Adjourns Tablighi Jamaat Matter; Asks Centre If Trials Can Be Expedited

Radhika Roy
27 July 2020 8:40 AM GMT
SC Adjourns Tablighi Jamaat Matter; Asks Centre If Trials Can Be Expedited

The Supreme Court has adjourned the plea filed by foreign nationals who had been blacklisted by the Ministry of Home Affairs for participating in the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, seeking for restoration of their visas and passports in order to travel back to their home countries.

A Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar heard the matter and allowed Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta's request to seek instructions regarding the viability of whether the trials of foreigners who have not pled guilty can be expedited. The matter has been adjourned to July 31.

On the last date of hearing, the Supreme Court had adjourned the plea by a week at the request of the Solicitor-General, with Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy submitting that she had no objection to the same.

Prior to that, the Court had taken note of the Centre's Affidavit which stated that individual orders had been passed for cancellation of visas of the foreign nationals and that the Petitioners had the liberty to make representations regarding individual visa cancellation orders before the appropriate authority.

In light of the above, the Bench had orally remarked that as individual orders had been already been passed, the Petitioners ought to now approach their respective High Courts, challenging the cancellation orders.

Today, the SG informed the Bench that out of 34 Petitioners, 23 had pleaded guilty and a certain fine had been imposed upon them, therefore, they were clear to go back home. He added that 9 were to face trial, and those trials were pending before various courts.

Justice Khanwilkar then asked the SG about what could be done to complete the trials in an expeditious manner. To this, the SG responded that he would speak to the investigating officer, and figure out the same by moving an Application for expeditious trial

Senior Advocate CU Singh then informed that the Court the return of the 23 Petitioners who had pleaded guilty had to be facilitated at the earliest.

"A fine of Rs. 5000 was imposed on them, after they went for plea bargaining. However, in their native countries, such a plea bargain may lead to repercussions."

Singh further submitted that the remaining 9 had no opted for a plea bargain as such a plea would have led to adverse consequences in their country. He also informed the Court that it had been mentioned that the remaining 9 Petitioners would have to file an Affidavit of apology, after which a closure report would be filed by the authorities.

The Court stated that the SG would look into the same and seek instructions.

Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy also submitted to the Court that out of the 25 Petitioners who had accepted the plea bargain, 3 had left, while 22 were having issues getting their passport. She requested for the SG to look into expediting this process as well.

Accordingly, the matter has now been listed on July 31.

On April 2, the Press Information Bureau (PIB) communicated the Government's decision to blacklist as many as 960 foreigners from 35 countries who were present in India.

Simultaneously, orders were issued to Director Generals of Police (DGPs) of all States and Union Territories as well as the Commissioner of Delhi Police (CP) to register FIRs against such foreign nationals.

In light of this, a plea had been filed before the Supreme Court, contending that the decision had been taken unilaterally and arbitrarily. Their plea emphasised that a decision of en masse blacklisting without issuing notice or providing an opportunity of being heard is in blatant violation of not only principles of natural justice, but also, of the Right to Life under Article 21.

The petitioners, all of whom have been blacklisted, submitted that not only has the sudden decision led to FIRs being registered against them but has also resulted in them having to forfeit their passports to the State Administration. This, they contended, is a complete deprivation of personal liberty, without following procedure established under law.

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