New Delhi [India], September 10 (ANI): A Session court at Saket Courts complex in Delhi on Thursday issued notice on a criminal revision petition moved by 35 foreign nationals, who attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, against farming of charges against them.
Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav issued notice to the Delhi Police on the plea filed by the foreigners, who belong to several countries, and slated the matter for further hearing on September 21.
Advocates Ashima Mandla and Mandakini Singh, representing the foreigners, sought to set aside the order of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate dated August 24, as no prima facie evidence is made out and submitting that seeking shelter at Markaz was a mere force of circumstances.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur had recently framed charges against these foreign nationals for attending Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin, allegedly neglecting and disobeying government guidelines issued in wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Magistrate court, while passed order on framing of charges to start the trial against the foreigners, had said that the statements of the witnesses, especially the health officials prima facie, showed that no social distancing was being followed at the site.
The plea challenged the order framing charges under sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act, Indian Penal Code and Disaster Management Act on grounds that no prima facie evidence is made out qua accused persons.
The court had also said there was no iota of evidence to suggest that the present accused had in any manner professed or propagated the principles and doctrines of the Tablighi Jamaat or had indulged in Tablighi work as alleged and discharged eight foreigners of all charges.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur had framed charges against several foreigners under Sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 (disobeying regulation) of Epidemic Act, 1897. The charges were also framed under Section 51 (obstruction) Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The plea said that the prosecution has levelled unsubstantiated allegations qua foreign nationals in connection with Tablighi Jamaat by making inaccurate, statements alleging foreign nationals from Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries to have attended the religious congregation at Markaz and allegedly acting as coronavirus carriers.
"The Tablighi Jamaat, is an Islamic self-reformatory movement, for the followers of Islam, by the followers of Islam having its headquarters at the Nizamuddin Markaz, New Delhi organizing the annual religious congregation at the aforementioned occasion," the plea said.
The petitioners, while challenging the magistrate court order in Sessions court, also submitted that a criminal trial cannot be allowed to assume the character of a fishing and roving enquiry.
"The followers of the movement from across the globe participate in the religious congregation at the Markaz every year and add. The details of the events are formalized a year in advance, for the convenience of the foreign nationals attending the same. This year the congregation was scheduled for early March, 2020, well before the outbreak of COVID-19," the plea said.
"It would not be permissible in law to permit a prosecution to linger, limp and continue on the basis of a mere hope and expectation that in the trial some material may be found to implicate the accused. Such a course of action is not contemplated in the system of criminal jurisprudence that has been evolved by the courts over the years," it added. (ANI)