Attendees came to India on tourist visas despite ban on Tablighi activities since 2003: SG Tushar Mehta tells Supreme Court

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The Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta today informed the Supreme Court that persons who came to India to attend the Tablighi Jamaat came on tourist visas despite knowing that Tablighi activities are banned in the country since 2003. The Solicitor General was arguing on the question of law pertaining to the rights of foreigners upon violation of visa conditions.

A bench of Justices Khanwilkar, Abhay Oka, and Ravikumar was hearing a batch of petitions relating to a communication by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) blacklisting foreign nationals who attended the Tablighi Jamaat in 2020 in violation of their visa regulations.

The SG told the Supreme Court that a visa is a privilege that a nation grants to a citizen of another nation and once the terms of such a privilege are violated by persons obtaining the visa, they cannot claim rights under Article 14 of the constitution. He, however, added that the right to life and personal liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution is available to such a person.

The SG argued, “Can a person who enters a country by obtaining a visa, commits acts against the law of the country, ask the court to enforce his rights?”

The SG further informed the court that for its own security, the nation maintains a list of persons who should not be granted visas to enter the country. He said, “We receive information that there are certain spies that might enter India, they are prohibited, they will never get a visa.”

The SG further said that the list should not be construed as a black list in contractual terms but if such a person were to apply for a visa to enter India, it will be denied.

Salman Khurshid, Sr. Adv, appearing for the petitioners, argued that the persons who were booked under penal laws for attending the Tablighi activities have all been acquitted by the court. However, he agreed that in some cases, plea bargaining was done.

He informed the court that while it was courteous of the country to have let the petitioners leave, they should not have been blacklisted without being given an opportunity to present their side of the case.

The SG, at this point, informed the court that considering visa itself is a privilege, such opportunities cannot be granted. Court, on hearing the submissions of the parties, adjourned the plea for final hearing. The matter will now come up for hearing on May 11, 2022.

On the last day of effective hearing, the SG had mentioned that “this law would have long-lasting implications.” Before the court, in January, the SG had submitted that the earlier judgments of the Supreme Court suggest that the right to approach the court is a sovereign statutory right and the court will have to reconsider the Passport (Entry Into India) Act, 1920.

Case Title: Maulana Ala Hardami vs Union of India