Foreign nationals against whom criminal proceedings are pending in India for attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation during mid-March in Delhi, are free to leave India after tendering an apology, the Central government told the Supreme Court on Thursday in a plea by 34 foreign nationals seeking deportation to their home countries.
The pendency of criminal cases in India will not bar them from returning to their home countries but it will be subject to orders passed by the concerned trial court where the criminal case against them is pending, the Central government through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted.
“Solicitor General has, in all fairness, submitted that if the concerned petitioners tender an apology in the concerned criminal case, they can be permitted to leave India despite the pendency of the criminal case but subject to such orders that may be passed by the concerned trial court,” the apex court recorded in its order.
The petitioners had approached the top court challenging revocation of their visas and praying that they be deported to their home countries. Criminal cases had also been slapped against them for violation of visa conditions.
On July 27, the Central government had informed the apex court that out of 34 petitioners, 10 had decided to contest the criminal cases against them while the rest had opted for plea bargaining.
The procedure called plea bargaining allows the accused to plead guilty in exchange for lesser punishment. The foreign nationals who agreed to plea bargaining have been let off with nominal fines and there is no embargo on them to leave India, Mehta had told the court on July 27. However, no solution was reached as regards the remaining petitioners who had not opted for plea bargaining.
The court had adjourned the case that day asking Mehta to work out a mechanism with regard to the 10 petitioners who were not ready to go for plea bargaining.
Mehta informed the court, on Thursday, that look-out notices against the 10 petitioners have been withdrawn.
“Solicitor General has fairly submitted that as of today only 10 petitioners have decided to contest the criminal cases pending against them and are not willing to exercise the option of plea bargaining. In that case, we deem it appropriate that the criminal cases concerning these ten petitioners pending in different trial courts in the NCT of Delhi be brought before the same court so that all the cases can be disposed of expeditiously,” the bench headed by justice AM Khanwilkar said.
The court then proceeded to direct the transfer of criminal cases pending before different trial courts in Delhi to one single court and also ordered completion of trial within 8 weeks.
“We direct transfer of stated cases to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, South-East Delhi, Saket Court Complex, Saket and direct the said court to dispose of all the cases expeditiously preferably within eight weeks from today,” the bench which also comprised Justice Dinesh Maheshwari ordered.
The Centre, in its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court in June, had claimed that the foreign nationals who participated in the Tablighi Jamaat event violated the provisions of visa rules and the Foreigners Act since they had arrived in India on limited tourist visas and Tablighi Jamaat activities were not covered by tourist visas.
The Nizamuddin area in Delhi was sealed on March 30 after it came to light that several people, who had attended a religious event held in March at Nizamuddin by a Muslim organisation called Tablighi Jamaat, were found to be infected with Covid-19. At least 16,500 people had visited Tablighi Jamaat’s headquarters in Nizamuddin between March 13 and 24.
The Union Home Ministry (MHA) had initially, in April, blacklisted 960 foreign nationals who had attended the religious event.
It was later submitted by the Centre that 205 FIRs were filed against foreign Tablighi Jamaat members in eleven states and 2,765 foreigners had been blacklisted.