New Delhi, Jul 27 (PTI) The Supreme Court Monday asked the Centre to consider the viability of expeditious trial against nine foreigners who were allegedly involved in the Tablighi Jamaat activities and have not pleaded guilty on the purported charges of violation of visa norms.
A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said this while hearing the petitions filed by 34 foreigners who have challenged the Centre's orders blacklisting more than 2,700 citizens of 35 countries from travelling to India for 10 years for alleged involvement in Tablighi Jamaat activities.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, that out of the 34 petitioners, trial against 23 is over as they had pleaded guilty while two of them have filed pleas in the apex court “out of misconception”.
Mehta said trial against nine of them remains as they have decided to contest the case.
The bench asked Mehta in how much time, the trial was expected to be over and whether it can expedited.
'Nine people are saying that they will contest the case. Charge sheet has been filed. We can request the trial judge to expedite the trial,' Mehta said, adding, 'I can seek instructions by tomorrow. I will ask the investigating officer to make an application before the trial court for day-to-day trial.' Senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for some of the petitioners, told the bench that 23 of them have pleaded guilty under plea bargaining and they have been released.
Singh said that directions should be issued for release of their passports.
He said pleading guilty under plea bargaining has ramification as the countries, from where these people belong to, views conviction in a serious manner.
He referred to the order of Madurai bench of the Madras High Court which had asked such foreigners to furnish affidavit of apology that they have violated visa conditions and after that, police has filed closure report in those cases.
The bench, which posted the matter for hearing on July 31, asked Mehta to take instructions regarding expeditious trial of these nine persons.
During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the bench expressed its displeasure that an application was filed earlier in the matter which complained that petitioners' lawyers were not being heard properly during the proceedings.
The bench said there are “logistical issues” but there should not be an application on the judicial side in this regard.
“Problems are there and we are trying to sort it out. We are pained to see this. We have taken note of the problem,” the bench said while making it clear that physical hearing “will have to wait” for two weeks at least weeks.
“Medical experts have advised us against physical hearing for now. This has been decided,” the bench said.
The Centre had earlier sought dismissal of the pleas and informed the top court on July 2 that it has issued individual orders on a case-to-case basis for cancellation of visas and blacklisting of 2,765 foreign nationals.
As per the information available, 205 FIRs have been lodged against the foreign Tablighi Jamaat members by 11 states and 2,765 such foreigners have been blacklisted so far, the Centre had said in its affidavit.
Of these, visas of 2,679 foreigners (including 9 Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders) have been cancelled, it had said, adding that remaining 86 include Nepal nationals who do not require visa.
The top court was also informed by the Centre that 1,906 Look Out Circulars (LOCs) were issued against foreign Tablighi Jamaat members and 227 left India before the issuance of LOCs/Black Listing.
The foreign nationals had on July 2 informed the top court through their advocates that around 1,500 one-liner e-mails were sent to them with regard to cancellation of visas but there was no show cause notice for blacklisting from travel to India for 10 years.
The apex court had asked the petitioners to file a rejoinder affidavit to the Centre’s reply and make appropriate representation with the competent authority with regard to deportation.
On June 29, the top court had asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to clarify its stand about the status of visa of these citizens from 35 countries.
Four petitions have been filed by 34 individuals, including a Thai national who is seven months pregnant, challenging the Centre's orders of April 2 and June 4 by which 2,765 foreigners in India were blacklisted.
The petitions, filed through advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi and drafted by advocates Ibad Mushtaq and Ashima Mandla, have contended that the en-masse blacklisting of foreigners without any opportunity to defend themselves is a blatant violation of Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution. PTI MNL ABA SJK SA