DELHI/ KARACHI (ENS/MD) The Supreme Court of India will hear the pleas of foreigners who were ‘blacklisted’ for attending the religious congregation at Delhi’s Nizamuddin area organised by the Tablighi Jamaat.
A blacklist is a compilation of the names of all Indian and foreign citizens against whom there’s a ‘look out circular’ (LOC) issued by the ministry of home affairs (MHA). The list, prepared by the Foreigners Division of the MHA, is shared with all Indian diplomatic missions as also with all immigration check-points within India to stop the exit or entry of certain individuals — which could either be in their personal capacity or because they are associated with an organisation.
How is it issued: To place a person or an organisation in the blacklist, an LOC needs to be issued. This can be done only through a written request by the investigating officer or agency addressed to an officer notified by the MHA, such as deputy secretary or above rank in the Centre, joint secretary or above rank at the state level and other equivalent ranks in law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It’s pertinent to note that an LOC can only be issued against offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Who’s in it: Well, that’s the interesting part — the blacklist is not in the public domain, so until and unless a person tries to enter or leave the country, he/she will not know if they are in the blacklist. Currently, there are about 30,000 people in the MHA blacklist, down from 38,000 in 2016 — the names pruned include over 100 Sikhs who were included in the blacklist after they protested against the 1984 Operation Bluestar or had sought political asylum in foreign countries. In fact, the existence of a blacklist became known thanks to them, when they raised the issue of being denied permission to visit India in the early 1990s.
How long is the blacklist period: There’s no fixed period to determine the length of the blacklist period — in the case of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, the government has blacklisted 2,550 foreigners who would not be allowed to enter India for a period of 10 years. In another case, the home ministry had clarified that “if somebody is denied entry, it does not mean that he is blacklisted forever” and that the blacklist may be reviewed every six months or annually.