New Delhi, July 2: Foreign nationals who attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in March have requested the Supreme Court that they should be deported to their home countries.

A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court by 34 foreign nationals who have challenged revocation of their visas and blacklisting by the central government. The attendees, through their counsel CU Singh, said that normal course of action for visa violation is deportation, The Hindustan Times reported.

“Please deport us to our home countries. We came here before any restrictions (imposed due to Covid-19). If we have not committed anything grave, the Centre can consider deporting us,” the foreign nationals argued.

Blacklisting would mean we should not be allowed to return to India but we can be deported, the petitioners further said.

The central government submitted an affidavit stating that individual orders have been issued against each of the foreign nationals cancelling their visas. As per the affidavit, visas of 2,679 foreign nationals have been cancelled and they will be allowed to go home only when legal process under Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) are complete.

The affidavit also said that 227 foreign nationals left India before a lookout notice could be issued against them. “47 foreigners who attended the Jamaat event are Nepal nationals who are not holding any visa. Visas of remaining 39 cases are under the process of cancellation,” the affidavit said.

The bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar observed that the proper course of action for the petitioners would be to challenge the central government’s orders individually before the concerned high court.

The matter was adjourned till July 10 to allow the petitioners to file rejoinder affidavit in response to Centre’s affidavit.

The Centre, in its affidavit, claimed that the foreign nationals by attending the Jamaat event violated the provisions of visa rules and provisions of Foreigners Act. Besides, they might also have violated the provisions of National Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act, the Centre further said in its affidavit. These laws were invoked by central and state governments to impose lockdown and other restrictions to check the spread of Covid-19.

Appearing for Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that deportation and grant of visa cannot be claimed as a right. “Grant of visas is a sovereign function of central government. There is no right to be deported. Deporting can be allowed if there is no criminal case. Once a foreign national enters the country and a criminal charge is brought against the person, he cannot be deported,” Mehta said.

The bench seemed to agree with the Centre. “There cannot be deportation if there is criminal case. It will be the central government’s discretion,” it remarked.

However, their lawyer said that these people have not committed a grave mistake affecting the security of the state. The lawyers CU Singh also said that the Centre should consider deporting them as these people came much before the lockdown restrictions were announced.

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