New Delhi [India], May 22 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Friday adjourned the hearing on a plea seeking the release of 916 foreign nationals, who participated in the Nizamuddin congregation and currently held in institutional quarantine in Delhi "despite being tested negative".
Justice Naveen Chawla while posting the matter for May 26 stated that "In my opinion, this petition should have been listed before a Division Bench of this Court as per the Roster. The petition should also be renumbered as a Criminal Writ Petition."
The court, while hearing the plea via video-conferencing said: "Let a copy of this petition be also served to the Standing Counsel (Criminal), Government of NCT of Delhi by the petitioner today itself for him to seek appropriate instructions".
The plea was moved by a group of 20 petitioners through advocate Ashima Mandla. It said a total of 916 foreign nationals are facing institutional quarantine since as early as March 30, 2020, in relation to the Markaz congregation.
It said that the Department of Revenue, Delhi Government, in an order dated May 9, directed handing over of 567 foreign nationals, presently held in institutional quarantine for over a month in relation with the religious congregation held at Nizamuddin Markaz despite testing negative to the custody of the Delhi Police.
The plea said that the move was bereft of legality and ultra vires of Articles 14, 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India and thus is liable to be quashed.
It said that the mere act of detaining 916 foreign nationals in institutional quarantine for over a month, despite all 916 persons now testing negative for COVID-19 shall tantamount to illegal detention and thereby prayed for a writ of habeas corpus be issued by the court directing for the immediate release of the foreign nationals.
It added that the continued detention in perpetuity of the 916 foreign nationals violates the very fabric of liberty.
On April 2, 2020, the Union of India had issued Standard Operating Procedure and on April 3, 2020, direction for the initiation of the deportation process of asymptomatic foreign nationals stranded in India, the plea said.
It is imperative to note that in the present case, only 79 foreign nationals, currently held in institutional quarantine, related to the congregation were initially tested positive for COVID-19, however, at present, all aforementioned 916 foreign nationals have tested negative, it added.
The plea said that the Department of Revenue, in the impugned order, had directed for the release of Indian nationals from quarantine centres upon testing negative for COVID-19.
Despite the same, there appears to be deliberate inaction and complete dilution of the Fundamental Rights on behalf of the Respondents in releasing the foreign nationals from the respective quarantine centres, the plea said.
Notably, FIRs in relation with the congregation at a Markaz in Nizamuddin area of the national capital have been registered by the Delhi Police against an unknown number of foreign nationals. (ANI)