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No Question of Deporting Foreign Tablighis Till Criminal Cases Exist: SC Told

In Nation
July 02, 2020

The Centre on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that the Home Secretary has written to chief secretaries of all states/ Union Territories requesting the foreign nationals, found involved in Tablighi activities on tourist visa, should not be immediately deported to their countries after their quarantine is over, as criminal cases exist against them.

In its counter affidavit, the Centre said: “Apart from violation of the visa conditions, the activities of the petitioners (foreign nationals) in the nature of Tablighi activities in question have endangered many lives in the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency and therefore, they are liable for legal action.” The Centre also informed the apex court that there exists no fundamental right on part of a foreigner to obtain a visa or to continue a cancelled or rescinded visa. And, apart from visa violations, the foreign Tablighi Jamaat members also endangered many lives in the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Centre submitted that the petitioners (foreign nationals) cannot claim a fundamental right to travel to the country as fundamental right, and it has unfettered discretion in matters concerning regulation of visa or deportation of foreigners. The Centre told the apex court that since foreigners have violated many provisions under various Acts, therefore it had requested states not to immediately deport them to their countries after the quarantine period is over, as appropriate punitive action may be taken in the matter.

A bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna took on record Centre”s affidavit. The Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, contended before the bench that individual orders have been passed by the competent authorities in connection with cancellation of the visa, the blacklisting of individuals and the other steps taken in pursuance of the same.

The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on July 10 and gave liberty to petitioners to file their rejoinder affidavit. The Centre said that visas of 2,679 foreigners, including 9 Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) have been cancelled, and their visas were cancelled on case to case basis.

“Cancellation of e-visa has been intimated to 1,502 foreigners, who were on e-visa, by email. However, 1,168 foreigners on regular visa could not be intimated regarding cancellation of the visa as their emails are not available with the Bureau of Immigration,” said the Centre.

A total of 2,765 foreigners have been blacklisted, 205 FIRs lodged and 1,905 look out notices issued against foreign Jamaat members, said the Centre. The Centre contended that foreigners participating in Tablighi Jamaat activities on tourist visa are a serious violation of provisions of Visa Manual, 2019, and also a criminal offence punishable under various sections of The Foreigners Act.

“In respectful submission of the Central government, such decision regarding cancellation of visas or blacklisting of persons are essentially executive decisions taken by the government as part of governance of a sovereign nation and as a process of policy making…

“The fact situation, the potential threat to overall health situation in the country, is an executive sovereign function based on empirical data and objective facts by way of policy,” said the Centre. More than 30 petitioners, who moved the top court, submitted that they had to forfeit their passports to the state administration after the registration of the FIRs, which led to deprivation of personal liberty, without following procedure established under law.

“All human beings are born with some unalienable rights like life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The importance of these natural rights can be found in the fact that these are fundamental for their proper existence and no other right can be enjoyed without the presence of right to life and liberty. Life bereft of liberty would be without honour and dignity and it would lose all significance and meaning and the life itself would not be worth living,” said the plea.