The Centre Thursday told the Supreme Court that the authority has withdrawn look out notices against some foreigners, who have challenged in the apex court the government's orders blacklisting several citizens of 35 countries for alleged involvement in Tablighi Jamaat activities.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari that petitioners who are before the apex court would be "free to leave" India subject to any other pending proceedings including order passed by the court requiring their presence.
"Solicitor General has also, in all fairness, submitted that if the concerned petitioners tender apology, as envisaged by the Madras High Court in the concerned criminal case, the said petitioners 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 bench said in its order.
The bench was informed that 10 petitioners before the top court have decided to contest the criminal cases pending against them for alleged violation of visa norms and they are not willing to exercise the option of plea bargaining.
The bench ordered transfer of cases pending against them in different trial courts in Delhi to the court of chief metropolitan magistrate, South-East Delhi, Saket district court here and said that these matters be disposed of expeditiously, preferably within eight weeks from today.
The apex court passed the order 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.
The bench noted in its order that the solicitor general, "on instructions, submits that the look out notices issued against the petitioner(s) before this court stand withdrawn. In other words, the concerned petitioner(s) will be free to leave India subject to any other pending proceedings including order passed by the court requiring his/her presence in the stated proceedings. We place the statement on record."
Taking note of Mehta's submission, the bench said, "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 hearing...so that all the cases can be disposed of expeditiously."
The bench, which has posted the matter for hearing after eight weeks, said that copy of its order be forwarded to the concerned court and the registrar general of the Delhi High Court for information and necessary action.
During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the bench asked Mehta about the status of trial in the criminal cases pending against some of the petitioners.
Mehta, while apprising the bench that cases against 10 out of the 34 petitioners are pending before different trial courts, suggested that these matters may be consolidated.
The Centre had earlier told the court that some of the petitioners have not pleaded guilty on the purported charges of violation of visa norms while trial against several of them was over as they had pleaded guilty.
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.
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.