Deportation of a Jewish couple from Israel, who were served with ‘Quit India’ notices by the district administration last Tuesday, was stayed by the Kerala high court on Tuesday.
The couple, Shneor Zalman Bernstein and Yaffa Shendi Keing from Bloy Street in Jerusalem came to Kochi on March 3, 2010 and had been staying in a rented house at Rose Street in Fort Kochi.
Considering a petition by the couple alleging arbitrariness on the part of the district administration, Justice S Siri Jagan issued a stay on the deportation and asked the district collector of Ernakulam to hear the grievances of the couple and pass appropriate orders on Wednesday.
Notices for deportation within 15 days were slapped on them on Tuesday by the district collector, on the basis of a report by the deputy commissioner of police (administration and crimes) on January 30 this year, citing violation of tourist visa norms.
According to the quit notice, the couple violated visa norms by organizing activities related to their religious life and belief under the religious organization ‘Chabad’ in a synagogue at Mattanchery. The notice cited lack of special endorsement in the entry visa to engage in such activities in India.
When the petition came up for hearing on Tuesday, State government contended that the deportation order was issued on the basis of intelligence report. The government also highlighted that guidelines issued by the central government restrict foreigners arriving on tourist visas from undertaking any employment, business, or other profession.
After noticing that the petitioners had produced copies of communication between Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs of Israel and ambassador of India in Israel regarding their intention of providing religious services to Jews in Kerala, the court asked the government whether any law exists other than the central government guidelines that prevents foreigners from engaging in other activities.
As the government counsel couldn’t cite any other law, the court directed the district collector to consider what the Jewish couple had to say and pass appropriate orders on Wednesday. The court also observed that not even a single petty case has been registered by the State against the foreigners in the past two years while the couple was staying at Fort Kochi.
In the petition filed through advocate R Lakshmi Narayan, the couple had contended that the husband is a qualified rabbi, who was invited by Cochin Synagogue to help in prayers, rituals related to birth, death, and marriage of the Jewish community here as well as for preserving the heritage of the community. The wife came along with the rabbi to help in the services, the petition said.
The couple was brought in as there are no suitably trained persons available among the Jewish community in Kochi to conduct rituals, the petition stated.
Responding to the reason given by police, engaging in activities related to religious organization called ‘Chabad’, the petitioners had submitted that ‘Chabad’ is not an organization but an ideological movement within Judaism, whose members, as volunteers, assist jews around the world in observing traditional Judaism.
[ Report - Times of India]