Karnataka High Court: Krishna S. Dixit, J., quashed the criminal proceedings against 9 foreign nationals belonging to the Tablighi Jamaat while directing FRRO to issue exit permits with imposing a fine and the undertaking to not visiting India for next ten years.
Present petitions challenged the initiation of criminal proceedings inter alia under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 for the violation of VISAS in question.
Counsel for the petitioner contended that the initiation of criminal proceedings is on a wrong assumption of a jurisdictional fact namely the nature of VISA.
Further, he added that the State is proceedings on a demonstrably wrong premise that the VISAS in question are all Tourist VISAS when they are not.
Central Government holds the power to relieve the foreigners of the criminal action after accepting the fine amounts in terms of the extant norms and therefore, that benefit needs to be extended to the accused.
Bench observed that there is no dispute as to the 9 of the 16 accused being foreigners who gained entry to India on the basis of VISAS in question.
Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 criminalizes violation of the conditions of VISA and prescribes punishment of imprisonment that may extend to 5 years and also unlimited fine.
Hence in view of the above, the case thus only revolves around one factor namely the nature of VISA.
Accused’s travel documents show that the VISAS in question granted to them answer the description of and bear the nomenclature “e-Tourist Visa”.
“E-VISAS are granted only for the specified purposes and not granted for any other purpose, the missionary activities such as propagation of religion, participating in religious congregation and proselytization are not entitled as the permissible activities.”
Adding to the above, the Court stated that there is no specific prohibition in the Visas in question for preaching religious principles in the Tablighi congregation, hence what is not provided for in the Visa, is deemed to be impermissible.
Court held that there is absolutely no justification for the allegation of the petitioners that the criminal proceedings initiated by respondent-police, with the prejudice generated by the Media propaganda and for the statistical purpose of the State, there is no iota of material for entertaining such baseless grievance.
Bench laid down the following directions:
- FRRO is directed to issue exit permits to the petitioners and ensure their exit from the country.
- Petitioners shall pay the fine amounts and file an undertaking to the effect that they would not visit this Country within the next 10 years.[Farhan Hussain v. State, Criminal Petition No. 2376 of 2020, decided on 05-08-2020]