Tablighi Jamaat, Do Foreigners have the right to return to their native land after contributing to sufferance?

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This article is written by Anushka Sharma from Delhi Metropolitan Education, GGSIPU and curated by Sahana Arya.

Tabligi Jamaat conference took place among 1,000 foreign nationals visiting it from various countries who visited India on a tourist visa. The conference took place in the Markaz Mosque, Nizamuddin, Delhi in early March. After this meeting, they visited various parts of the country to preach the religious values of Islam which eventually lead to surge in the number of cases.

After this surge, the people involved in this were booked under foreigners act for violating their visa conditions and criminal proceedings against them were booked.

The question which arises here is, whether these people have the right to return back to their native land after contributing to sufferance?

Recently, in a notable judgement, the High Court of Madras directed withdrawing criminal proceedings against these 31 foreigners who were booked under the Foreigners Act for contributing to the violation.

They also stated that the people found in the conference have the right to return back to their home/ native country as their continued imprisonment under such an uncertain situation will lead to violation of their right to life granted under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution as they have already suffered a lot because of the violation and they have the right to return back to their country as earliest as possible because of the existence of medical emergency around the globe.

It has been stated by the Madras High Court, that during the time of emergencies like arm conflict or medical emergency, the right to leave the country can be accepted.

The petitioners were not tested positive and as we are very uncertain of the future so we don’t know what’s next and this may push their lives into danger. As the petitioners are also ready to bear the cost of the transportation and they will be coordinating with their consultancies arranging for their return journey and even after doing this if they respondent want to detain them then it’ll be considered as unjust, unfair, and unreasonable and will eventually lead to violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The people involved in the religious ceremony received a heavy criticism, they were locked up or imprisoned for a period of seventy days and the period for which they were imprisoned is sufficient in consideration of the crime they committed.

The Hight Court of Madras also referred to Article 12(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of which India is a signatory. It says that “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

The petitioners were arrested in the first week of April, 2020 and there has been no progress in the investigation. The imprisonment of the petitioners will not benefit anyone.

The Madras High Court also stated in their judgement that the petitioners should not be detained in camps once they are granted bail and should be allowed to reside at a place which is set apart for the residence under supervision as mentioned in Section4(2) of the Foreigners Act.

It is necessary that people don’t categorise them as “Tablighis” as categorisation can have difficulties and also makes the situation worse. These people hail from different countries and consist of women and senior citizens as well. They are also ready to file individual affidavits admitting their mistake of violating the visa conditions. Also, they took an undertaking of not returning back to India for the next 10 years.

The author believes that they should be given a chance and detaining them or keeping them prisoned during such an adverse situation will deteriorate the situation and even the condition of the petitioners. It is important that they return back to their respective countries safely, take all necessary precautions and avoid repeating such mistakes in future.

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