Bombay High Court Quashes FIRs Against 8 Tablighis from Myanmar

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The court said there was no material on record to prove that applicants had indulged in any act which was likely to spread infection of covid-19

Clarion India

NEW DELHI — The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has quashed the FIRs and the chargesheet filed against eight Myanmar nationals of Tablighi Jamaat booked over coronavirus spread, for the lack of evidence to back the charges.

According to a report in livelaw.in, a legal news website, the court observed that “allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the court, especially because of lack of evidence supporting the charges levelled against the foreigners.”

The order by Bench of Justice V. M. Deshpande and Justice Amit Borkar said that the police acted without jurisdiction to file the FIRs and the charge-sheet against the eight Myanmar nationals.

The court said there was no material on record to prove that applicants had indulged in any act which was likely to spread infection of covid-19. The order noted that they only read the Quran and offered Namaz at a local mosque.

It added that they did not even know Hindi and, therefore, there could be no question of them engaging any religious discourse or speech, the report said.

The LiveLaw quoted the order saying, “Since the applicants were not conversant with the local language, they studied Quran and Hadis in their language. The statements of witnesses make it clear that there is no material produced by the prosecution to prove that the applicants were engaged in Tabligh (sermon) work and they were involved in preaching religious ideology or making speeches in religious places. There is no material produced by the prosecution in the charge-sheet which even prima-facie proves contravention of condition No. 1.25 or 19.8 of the Visa Manual.”

The applicants said they were nationals of Myanmar who came to India and received tourist visas at the Kolkata airport in the first week of March. They reached Nagpur on March 8 after spending a few days in Delhi.

The report said that on 8 March, an online C-Form was prepared under the Foreigner Regional Registration Office and its hard copy was submitted on 9 March to Muslim Cell, Special Branch, Police Control Room, Nagpur, FRRO and State Intelligence Department, Nagpur.

On March 11, they shared their entire schedule with police station of Gittikhadan.

On March 22, when the Modi government announced janata curfew,  they were shifted to Markaz Centre at Mominpura, Nagpur within the jurisdiction of Police Station, Tahsil and the information to that effect was provided to the Police Station but, the acknowledgement was not obtained due to the janata curfew.

During their stay from 24 March till 31 March, Dr Kkhawaja, NMC Zonal Officer, Mominpura along with his team and the police, had visited the applicants.

On 3 April, at about 3.30 pm, all the applicants were sent to institutional quarantine at MLA. Hostel, Civil Lines, Nagpur and all the applicants had undergone a test for covid-19, which turned out to be negative.

But on 5 April, they were informed that an FIR had been registered against them under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The police formally arrested them while they were in institutional quarantine.

The police conducted an investigation and filed a filed charge-sheet under Sections 188, 269, 270 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, Section 3 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1987 and Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Section 14 of the Foreigners Act.

The Court observed that no prosecution could have been launched against the applicants under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code based on a written report submitted by the police. No FIR could have been registered by the police for an offence punishable under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.

The Court was of the opinion that allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court in as much as there was an express legal bar against the institution of FIR against an accused based on the police report.

“We, therefore, deem it appropriate to quash the F.I.R. bearing No. 178/2020 and charge-sheet bearing registration No. 6076/2020 before the Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Nagpur” ruled the court.

The Court was of the opinion that allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court in as much as there was an express legal bar against the institution of FIR against an accused based on the police report.

“We, therefore, deem it appropriate to quash the F.I.R. bearing No. 178/2020 and charge-sheet bearing registration No. 6076/2020 before the Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Nagpur” ruled the court.

The Court was of the opinion that allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court in as much as there was an express legal bar against the institution of FIR against an accused based on the police report.

“We, therefore, deem it appropriate to quash the F.I.R. bearing No. 178/2020 and charge-sheet bearing registration No. 6076/2020 before the Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Nagpur” ruled the court.

Earlier, the Bombay High Court had quashed the FIRs filed against 29 foreign Tablighis who were booked under similar laws for allegedly violating their Tourist Visa conditions by attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin in Delhi.

The court said that  the Tablighi Jamaat members were made “scapegoats”, and criticised the “big media propaganda” against them after noting that they were “virtually persecuted” with a campaign that they were responsible for spreading covid-19 in India.

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