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Law

Delhi Court Acquits All Foreigners Accused in Tablighi Jamaat Case

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Arun Kumar Garg acquitted all 36 foreigners from 14 countries of all charges.

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Tuesday acquitted all the 36 foreign nationals, who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat event organised at Nizamuddin Markaz here in March, and were accused by the Delhi police of having been violation of visa norms and flouting COVID-19 guidelines.

The event had witnessed the participation of over 9,000 people, including many from abroad. Mainstream media and the government were quick to label the event as a ‘super-spreader’ after several of the participants tested positive for COVID-19.

The cases being heard by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Saket Court, Arun Kumar Garg, included 27 that were transferred to his court by the Delhi high court in August this year. Thereafter, day to day hearings were conducted at the Saket Court to expedite the matter.

The 36 foreigners were from 14 countries.

Earlier, the cases against eight accused were closed after they entered into a plea bargain and paid the Rs 10,000 penalty that was imposed on them.

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

Advocate Ashima Mandla, who along with Ahmed Khan and Fahim Khan, represented the accused, told The Wire that the 36 accused had been charged under Section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act, Sections 51/58 (1) of Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Sections 188/269 of the Indian Penal Code.

Plea bargains

The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate-South East (CMM-SE) Saket Court took cognisance of the case’s 48 charge sheets and 11 supplementary charge sheets on July 6 this year. Between July 7 and 21, bail bonds were furnished for 955 foreign nationals and plea bargaining applications were moved by them before the CMM. Thereafter 911 foreign national claimed plea bargains against fines ranging from Rs 4,000 to Rs 10,000 and 44 foreign nationals chose to go to trial.

On August 6, the Supreme Court directed the CMM-SE to conclude the trial in a time-bound manner within six weeks. Then on August 10, 44 separate discharge applications were moved by or on behalf of foreign nationals seeking discharge from all offences. Hearing of 26 quashing petitions on behalf of the foreign nationals was taken up before the Delhi high court as they were named in “second FIRs”.

HC transferred batch of cases to CMM court

The same month, the Delhi high court transferred a batch of cases pending against 27 foreign nationals – eight from Kyrgyzstan and 19 from Indonesia – to the CMM-SE and directed that the charge sheets arising out of different FIRs mentioned in four petitions be transferred from different trial courts to the court of the CMM.

It was claimed by the counsels for the foreigners accused in these cases that the offences alleged in the FIRs were either the same as those alleged in the earlier FIR, in which they had pleaded guilty. In some cases, no offence could be made out against them.

Also read: The Coronavirus Has Morphed Into an Anti-Muslim Virus

Eight foreigners discharged in August

Of the 44 foreigners, eight were discharged by a magistrate court on August 24 of all charges under which they were charge sheeted in the absence of any record or credible material against them. Thereafter, in November, Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav allowed the plea of these eight foreigners seeking deportation to their countries.

The court, however, directed the eight to deposit a surety amount of Rs 30,000 to the court and furnish their name, phone number, e-mail address and address to the investigating officer before leaving the country.

Note: An earlier version of the story carried errors in the total number of people acquitted and in the process in which the judge pronounced his order.