While 911 foreigners were allowed by the trial court to be deported to their native countries under the provisions of plea bargaining, another 44 foreigners had chosen to stand trial.
NEW DELHI – Stating that there was no prima facie evidence, a Delhi court on Monday discharged eight of the 44 foreign nationals facing trial of all offences in cases related to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi in March.
The court also discharged the rest of the 36 under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act and IPC Sections 270 and 271 but they still face charges under the Epidemic Act, Disaster Management Act and other IPC sections for negligence and not maintaining social distancing norms.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur said that no credible material had been placed before the court that backed the claims made against the accused in the charge- sheet.
While discharging each of the eight in separate orders, the court observed, “The entire charge-sheet and documents attached thereto neither show his presence or participation at the Markaz during the relevant period. There is also no document on record to suggest that he was one of the participants involved in Tabligh’s work as are the allegations.
“In the absence of any record or any credible material placed before this court in the present charge-sheet or any of the documents attached along with it, so as to proceed further against the accused is hereby discharged from all offences in the present case,” the court concluded.
According to a Hindustan Times report, this is the first group of eight people who will walk free to their countries without any charges. They include two each from Indonesia and Thailand and one person each from Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Jordan.
The city police had filed 53 charge-sheets against 956 other foreign nationals belonging to 35 countries for visa violation, not maintaining social distancing norms and other sections of the Epidemic Act and Disaster Management Act.
Earlier, 911 foreigners were allowed by the trial court to be deported to their native countries under the provisions of plea bargaining, while another 44 foreigners had chosen to stand trial.
The Tablighi Jamaat made news in March when its Bangla Wale Masjid in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area emerged as a coronavirus hotspot triggering large-scale public backlash as also a spate of hate crimes against Muslims across the country.
Both the government and media ran a vilifying campaign against the peaceful preachers of Islam as police charge-sheeted 956 foreigners for allegedly violating visa conditions, conducting missionary activities and violating covid guidelines set forth by the government to curb the spread of the virus.
The charge-sheet and documents produced by the public prosecutor had alleged that the accused arrived in India on tourist visa and e-visa but conducted missionary activities of Tablighi Jamaat citing a register seized from the Markaz.
It further alleged that the accused person did not follow social distancing and other guidelines suggested by the authorities to curb the spread of coronavirus and blamed them of “malignant and negligent” role in increasing the spread of coronavirus.
On Monday, in response, lawyer Rebbeca John, representing the accused foreign nationals argued that that the charge-sheet was silent as to the role of any of the accused persons so charge-sheeted and also did not provide any specific act done by them to invoke provisions of any of the sections alleged against them. She added that there was no proof that the accused were aware of the government and police orders issued in view of the coronavirus situation.
She further said that visa guidelines available on home ministry websites did not bar the accused from visiting or attending religious places including Tablighi Jamaat.
After hearing the arguments from both sides the court said that there was no prima facie evidence against the accused and discharged the accused foreign nationals of all offenses brought against them.
Meanwhile, in Mumbai reports said the Bandra police dropped charges of culpable homicide amounting to murder and attempt-to-murder against 12 Tablighi members from Indonesia.
The Indian Express cited a senior police officer saying that the charges were dropped since no evidence was found to substantiate the charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and attempt to murder.