A two judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari is set to hear a batch of petitions by 34 individuals from 34 different countries challenging the Ministry of Home Affairs order blacklisting over 2,500 foreign nationals presently in India for a period of 10 years from travelling to India for their alleged involvement in Tablighi Jamat activities, legal news website BarandBench.com has reported.
The lead petition in the case by French national, Maulana Ala Hadrami states that the act of MHA was "unilateral" in nature and that the principle of "audi alteram partem" was violated as the foreign nationals were not heard. Resultantly, the nationals could not travel back to their country of citizenship.
"En masse blacklisting of the aforesaid more than 2500 foreigners of about 40 different nationalities, currently in India, without affording any opportunity to prima facie defend themselves, is an egregious and blatant violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution," reads the plea.
Hadrami states that he was quarantined in March, 2020, like other petitioners, and was released from quarantine only in late May, 2020 and is still at a facility under restricted movements, without the avenue to go back to his home nation.
The plea states that by a press release dated April 2, the government had blacklisted 960 foreign nationals in India and further on June 4, another 2,500 were blacklisted.
The petitioner has assailed the MHA decision by stating that it was based on an erroneous presumption that has "equated the mere act of attending a religious congregation or a religious place of worship on the same footing as with Tabligh work such as preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places, proselytization, distribution of audio or visual display/ pamphlets pertaining to religious ideologies, negating any intelligible differentiation between the two separate and distinct activities."
The plea says that with the move to blacklist these foreign nationals, the State also directed the police authorities to initiate legal action against “violators” in their respective states.
This, the plea states, resulted in the further deprivation of personal liberty as the passports of these foreign nationals were impounded by state authorities and immigration authorities to prevent such persons from leaving the country and FIRs were registered against them.
The petitioners have urged the top court to quash the MHA orders blacklisting nearly 3,500 foreign nationals as it violates Article 21. They have sought the court's help to allow their travel back to their countries of citizenship.