The Madras High Court, on Monday, granted bail and ordered the closure of criminal proceedings against 31 foreign nationals who were facing prosecution under the Foreigners Act for participating in the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi. They were being prosecuted for violating visa norms by participating in the meeting.
According to reports, the court also stated that carrying on proceedings against them amid a pandemic is a violation of the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution and thus they have a right to go back to their home countries. The judges also observed that the petitioners have suffered enough for their violation of law and that there is a state of medical emergency in the country and hence their right to leave the country can be invoked.
The court was hearing bail applications of 11 Bangladeshi nationals and 20 nationals of Indonesia on Monday when it passed the order.
‚ÄúThe petitioners fortunately have not tested positive so far. The position may be different tomorrow. The lives of the petitioners may be in danger. Times may be uncertain but rights have to be certain. The petitioners are willing to bear the cost of transportation. They will coordinate with their embassies and consulates and arrange their return. All that the respondents need to do is to play a facilitatory role. Instead of doing so, if the respondents insist on detaining the petitioners and prosecuting them, it can only be characterised as unreasonable, unjust and unfair. I, therefore, hold that the continuance of the criminal prosecution against the petitioners herein would certainly amount to an infraction of their fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and directing their closure on appropriate terms alone would secure the ends of justice,‚ÄĚ reads the order.
While the court affirmed that their participation in religious activities was in violation of the visa norms and that the ‚Äėreckless and irresponsible‚Äô conduct of the Tablighi Jamaat members in organising the meeting amid a pandemic was rightfully criticised, the court also said that the court cannot arbitrarily deny their request to return to their countries. Granting them bail, the court also called for empathy and understanding of their situation. ‚ÄúMerely because the petitioners have contravened the visa conditions, they cannot be seen as criminals. The situation calls for empathy and understanding.‚ÄĚ The petitioners are yearning "to breathe the native air in their own ground,‚ÄĚ it added.