The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that it has issued individual orders on a case-to-case basis for cancellation of visas and blacklisting of 2,765 foreign nationals for alleged involvement in Tablighi Jamaat activities.
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 said in its affidavit.
Of these, visas of 2,679 foreigners (including 9 Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders) have been cancelled, it said, adding that the 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.
It said the cancellation of e-visas has been intimated to these foreigners by e-mail, but some on regular visa could not be intimated as their e-mail ids were not available.
The foreign nationals informed the top court through their counsels 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.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna posted the matter for further hearing on July 10 and 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.
From the reply affidavit filed by the Union of India, it transpired that individual orders have been passed by the department/competent authority on case to case basis regarding blacklisting/cancellation of visa.
"Those orders according to the stand taken by the Union of India could not be served because of non-availability of details regarding whereabouts of the concerned petitioner(s)," the bench said in its order.
It said that the pendency of these writ petitions will be no impediment for the concerned petitioner(s) to make representation to the department/competent authority for deporting/sending them back to their respective countries.
"That representation may be considered by the authority on its own merits and in accordance with law," the bench said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said it has filed an affidavit stating that individual orders were passed with regard to the cancellation of visas and blacklisting of individuals on case-to-case basis.
He said the grant of visa is not an enforceable right, let alone a fundamental right, and these foreigners were not only blacklisted but there are criminal charges pending against them and will be prosecuted under Foreigners Act.
Grant of visa is a plenary sovereign function of the Centre and across the world and if they have committed an offence, these foreigners have to be tried, he said, adding that no foreign Tabligh Jamaat member has been deported till now as criminal proceedings are going on against them.
Senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for these citizens from over 35 countries said that if there was any violation of visa norms, they can be deported to their parent country.
He said that according to the Centre case-to-case orders were passed but only around 1,500 one-liner e-mails were sent to them about the visa cancellation and there was nothing about blacklisting from travel to India for ten years.
The bench told Singh that they can challenge these individual orders of the Centre before the high court as the court needs to see whether it is a well-reasoned order or a mechanical one.
Singh contended that they need to be deported as blacklisting would come into picture, if the foreign nationals try to enter India.
The bench, said that deportation would come into picture, if there are non-pendency of cases against these foreigners.
It asked the Centre to file the orders passed with regard to visa cancellation with the court and also circulate among lawyers for the petitioners.
The Centre said that as these foreign nationals are spread across the country, some of who are still to be located, the execution of the orders would take place at the port of exit.
"It is submitted that since the petitioners and other persons have been found to be breaching the conditions of the visa granted to them, committing criminal offences, etc..., the said persons are being investigated/ prosecuted as the procedure established by law," it said.
On June 29, the top court had asked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to clarify its stand about the status of visa of these citizens from 35 countries, who were blacklisted for ten years for their alleged involvement in Tablighi Jamaat activities.
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.