The MHA’s stranglehold over Tablighi foreigners forced them into plea bargaining

29 August 2020
In July, the home ministry filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the government had cancelled the visas of at least 2,765 foreign Tablighi members.
PTI
In July, the home ministry filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the government had cancelled the visas of at least 2,765 foreign Tablighi members.
PTI

On 21 August, the Bombay High Court delivered a scathing judgement questioning the criminal proceedings against members of the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic revivalist group. The previous month, the ministry of home affairs had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the government had cancelled the visas of at least 2,765 foreign Tablighi members. The MHA added that Tablighi members had been blacklisted from re-entering India. It further noted that a total of 205 first information reports had been registered against foreign Tablighi members across the country. The Bombay High Court quashed the FIRs against 29 foreign nationals, criticising the government for using the Tablighi members as “scapegoats” amid an escalating pandemic. A scrutiny of the home ministry’s affidavit lends significant support to the court’s verdict and raises grave questions about the Indian government’s treatment of the Tablighi foreigners.

The home ministry filed the affidavit in response to a batch of petitions before the Supreme Court by members of the Tablighi Jamaat from 35 different countries. According to the affidavit, the FIRs were registered because the Tablighi members were “found to be involved in Tabligh activities which are not permitted on tourist visa.” Subsequently, the MHA refused to let them leave the country citing ongoing criminal proceedings. The ministry restricted them to India because of the cases pending against them, refusing to let them return home. The petitioners argued that they had entered India on valid tourist visas and that the Indian government had been unable to explain how they violated their visa during their stay.

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    Arshu John is a former assistant editor at The Caravan. Prior to that, he was an advocate practising criminal law in Delhi.

    Keywords: Tablighi Jamaat Bombay High Court Ministry of Home Affairs Muslims Supreme Court of India
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