By Diksha Mehta-
Around more than 13 years ago, a Muslim permanent resident in New York- Muhammad Tanvir was approached by the FBI agents to spy on his fellow Muslim men and give information on their activities, to which he refused.
Thereafter, he found himself on the No- Fly list by the agents which is basically a roster on which names are placed of people who pose potential terrorism threat.
He filed a suit against the federal agents under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 1993 in which he was joined by three other Muslim men with a similar issue. Thereafter, they were informed that they had been removed from the No-fly list.
The Supreme Court has been known to be friendly in cases involving religious matters and the matter in hand right now is demand of monetary compensation by the aggrieved men against the FBI agents.
The main issue before the Court is that whether the 1993 Act permits them to sue for additional monetary compensation or not.
The lawyer for the federal government, Edwin S. Kneedler pointed that the Act provided for ‘appropriate relief’ which made monetary suits unmaintainable.
It was argued by Petitioner’s Counsel, Mr. Ramzi Kassem that the reasons to be put on the No-fly list were opaque and not justified due to which his clients missed precious family time and job opportunities. Further, the agents might repeat the same against other people.
He further gave examples of damage caused due to harm to religious beliefs of certain people where the only appropriate relief was monetary compensation; which as noted by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was the only relief excluded from ‘appropriate relief’ by the Congress while framing the law.
Justice Neil M. Gorsuch pointed that ‘appropriate relief’ may be granted according to facts and circumstances of each case.
The situation is unpredictable as on one hand it involves a question of religious nature and on the other hand, the issue of damages against federal employees.
The Court shall hear the case again in the next year and conclude it before the end of its annual session i.e. in June.