Law

Delhi Court Grants Bail to 82 Bangladeshi Tablighi Jamaat Members

Additionally, 62 Malaysians and 11 foreigners from Saudi Arabia were allowed to walk free on payment of fine of Rs 7,000 and Rs 10,000 each respectively.

New Delhi: On Friday, a Delhi court granted bail to 82 foreign nationals from Bangladesh who were charged for attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. The foreigners had allegedly violated visa norms such as indulging in illegal missionary activities and violating government guidelines issued in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur granted relief to the foreigners on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 10,000 each.

Till date, the court has granted bail to 371 foreign nationals from 31 different countries, who were charge-sheeted in the case.

In June, the police had filed 59 charge sheets, including supplementary, against 956 foreigners belonging to 36 different countries.

Advocates for the accused, Ashima Mandla, Mandakini Singh and Fahim Khan said that the accused [who were granted bail on Friday] will file their plea bargain applications on Saturday.

The accused plead guilty to the offence and urged for a reduced sentence.

Also read: The Coronavirus Spread and the Criminal Liability of the Tablighi Jamaat

The Criminal Procedure of Code allows for plea bargains in cases where the maximum punishment is seven-year imprisonment; furthermore, the only if the offences do not affect the socio-economic conditions of the society and are not committed against a woman or a child under 14 years of age.

During the hearing, all the accused were produced before the court through video conferencing.

Foreign nationals from Malaysia, Saudi Arabia also granted bail

A Delhi court Friday also allowed 62 Malaysians and 11 foreigners from Saudi Arabia to walk free on payment of fine of Rs 7,000 and Rs 10,000 each respectively, after they accepted mild charges, under the plea bargain process, related to various violations including visa norms while attending Tablighi Jamaat congregation.

A lawyer, who appeared for the foreign nationals, said that Metropolitan Magistrate Siddharth Malik passed the order after the Malaysians sought lesser punishment under plea bargain process by accepting mild charges.

They were allowed to walk free after the Sub-divisional magistrate of Lajpat Nagar, who was the complainant in the case, Additional commissioner of Police of Lajpat Nagar and Inspector of Nizamuddin, said they have no objection to their pleas.

Senior advocate S. Hari Haran, said another Metropolitan Magistrate Ashish Gupta passed the order in the case of foreign nationals from Saudi Arabia who accepted mild charges in exchange for lesser punishment under the plea bargain process.

Under plea bargaining, the accused plead guilty to the offence praying for a lesser punishment.

Earlier bails

The court had granted bail to 122 Malaysians on Tuesday and 91 other foreigners from 21 other countries on Wednesday and 76 other foreign nationals from eight countries on Thursday.

The investigating officer (IO) had told the court that the investigation against the 956 foreigners was completed and each of them has been allegedly found to have independently committed the offence for which he/she has been charged.

Further investigations are pending, the IO said.

These foreigners had attended the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz event in March. Ensuing the event, hundreds of Tablighi Jamaat members who had attended the meeting testing positive for Covid-19. The meeting was responsible for the exponential rise of the contagion across the country.

According to the charge sheets, all the foreigners have been booked for violation of visa guidelines issued in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act and prohibitory orders under section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure.

They have also been booked for the offences under sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 270 (Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 271 (Disobedience to quarantine rule) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Foreigners Act.

The punishment for these offences range from six to eight years of imprisonment.

The Centre has cancelled their visas and blacklisted them. The foreigners have not been arrested yet and are residing at various places approved by the Delhi High Court.

At least 9,000 people, including the foreign nationals, participated in the religious, Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz. Later, many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.

An FIR was registered against Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad Kandhalvi and six others on March 31 on a complaint by the Station House Officer of Nizamuddin under sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act (2005), Foreigners Act and other relevant sections of Indian Penal Code.

The police said that Kandhalvi was later booked for culpable homicide [not amounting to murder] after some of the attendees of the religious congregation died due to COVID-19,