The petitioners contended that all the Tablighi delegates had arrived on valid visas issued by the Government of India, and they were screened and tested for covid-19 at the airport and found to be negative
Mohd Aasif l Clarion India
NEW DELHI – The Bombay High Court on Friday quashed the FIRs filed against 29 foreign nationals booked under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code for violating their tourist visa conditions by attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin in Delhi.
According to Live Law, the foreigners were booked for offences punishable under the Epidemic Disease Act, the Maharashtra Police Act, the Disaster Management Act and the Foreigner’s Act.
A division bench of Justice TV Nalawade and Justice MG Sewlikar observed that the cases filed against the Tablighi delegates were a design to malign Muslims by taking action against the sect of Islam .
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ahmednagar, had filed a reply contending that the petitioners were found visiting places for preaching the Islam religion and so, crimes were registered against them. However, the court acknowledged the fact that Tablighi delegates did not involve in the activity of conversion of the non-Muslims.
“The allegations are very vague in nature and from these allegations, inference is not possible at any stage that they were spreading the Islam religion and there was intention of conversion”, reads the judgement.
The Bombay high court’s Aurangabad bench, while striking down the criminal cases against the foreign Tablighi Jamaat members, observed that they were virtually persecuted and the action against them was taken because of malice against a particular religion.
“A political Government tries to find scapegoat when there is pandemic or calamity, and the circumstances show that there is probability that these foreigners were chosen to make them scapegoats,” said the judges, and cited the latest figures of Covid-19 infection in India and said they show the action against the foreigners should not have been taken. “The material of the present matter shows that the propaganda against the so-called religious activity was unwarranted.”
The petitioners contended that all the Tablighi delegates had arrived on valid visas issued by the Government of India. On arrival, they were screened and tested for Covid-19 at the airport and found to be negative. The authorities allowed them to leave the airport after the due process. No Tablighi delegate was found to be involved in any illegal activity.
The bench, taking the reference of the anti-CAA movement, has recognised the fact that the action indirectly gave warning to the Indian Muslims that action in any form, and for anything, can be taken against Muslims. It was indicated that even for keeping contact with Muslims of other countries, action will be taken against them.
“There is a smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and Muslims for their alleged activities. The circumstances like malice are important considerations when relief is claimed of quashing of FIRs and the case itself”, reads the judgement.
The court also pointed towards the ethical and moral duties during the pandemic criticising the police action of lodging complaints against Tablighi delegates and blaming them for spreading the coronavirus disease, saying, “During the situation created by Covid-19 pandemic, we need to show more tolerance and we need to be more sensitive towards our guests particularly like the present petitioners”.
Yet, by the time of congregation at the Nizamuddin Markaz, the government had not declared any medical emergency in the country. The media, the police and the government started blaming the Tablighi Jamaat for the spread of the coronavirus.
Ziya Us Salam, author of the book, Inside the Tablighi Jamaat, welcoming the decision of the Bombay High court told Clarion India that the allegation of involvement in conversion was baseless and Jamaat only encouraged Muslims to be a ‘good one’.
“The Bombay High Court has done justice to the people of Tablighi Jamaat and its foreign delegates”, said Ziya Us Salam. During the pandemic lockdown, the majority of the mainstream media described the Tablighi Jamaat’s congregation as a source of spreading the coronavirus. “The judgement has also exposed the Islamophobic narrative of the media”, he added.
Navaid Hamid, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, told Clarion India that the judgement had also exposed the Islamophobic attitude of the government, internationally. “It is to be seen how many anchors of national media channels would debate on this judgement”, he further added.
Senior Supreme Court Lawyer Prashant Bhushan appreciated the judgement.
The Bombay HC sets an example: Quashing FIRs against Tabligi Jamaatis,says;"A political Govt tries to find the scapegoat when there is pandemic or calamity&the circumstances show that there is prob that these foreigners were chosen to make them scapegoats"https://t.co/LTY1B58KSC
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) August 22, 2020