Nizammudin Markaz , The Delhi Government on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that the foreign nationals who attended the Nizamuddin Markaz were not “under any type of custody” and that the Government was “looking after them”.
The Delhi Police also clarified that nobody from the Markaz congregation had been arrested or detained in the connection with the FIR registered after the COVID-19 outbreak.
The above status report was submitted to a Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar in connection with a habeas corpus petition preferred by 20 such foreign nationals in institutional quarantine.
The Petitioners and other foreign nationals in question had participated in the Tablighi Jamaat held at the Nizammudin Markaz in March 2020.
After few participants tested positive for COVID-19, an FIR was registered against the organisers of the event, all the attendees, visitors, organizers etc and all the members of the Nizammudin Markaz congregation, Indians and foreigners alike, were sent to institutional quarantine centres.
It is the Petitioners’ grievance that while the Indian Nationals were released on May 9 after they tested negative, foreign nationals were still directed to be in their centres testing negative.
It is also claimed that more than 560 of these foreign nationals were directed by the Delhi Government to be sent to the custody of Delhi Police in connection with the FIR.
The Petitioners have thus sought a direction to end the “illegal detention” of these 916 foreign nationals of Nizammudin Markaz on the ground that it is violation of Articles 14, 21 & 22 of the Constitution of India.
In its status report, the Delhi Police has stated that nobody from the congregation has been arrested or detained in the connection with the FIR so far.
It is contended that more than 900 foreign TablighiJamaat attendees, including the petitioners, only joined the investigation after they were served notices under 41A CrPC.
The Delhi Police has, however, claimed that apart from being liable for violating Executive orders in terms of Section 188 IPC, the foreign nationals who had entered India on Tourist Visa, as opposed to a Missionary Visa, and then participated in the Tablighi Jamaat also after Nizammudin markaz in violated Section 14 (b) Foreigners Act and Sections 308/304 IPC.
It is further explained that a foreigner on Tourist Visa can only engage in recreation, sight-seeing, casual meeting with friends or relatives, attending short-term yoga programmes, short duration medical treatment etc and no other activity.
Delhi Police has added that the investigation with regard to the FIR is being conducted on a day-to-day basis and efforts are being made to finalize the investigation and submit a report under Section 173 CrPC.
While maintaining that the foreign nationals from Nizammudin Markaz were not “under any type of custody”, the status report adds,
“These foreign nationals shall be released/handed over to government agencies if MHA provides any directions or Delhi Police wishes to take their custody.”
While clarifying that it had no objections with release or otherwise of the foreign nationals, the Delhi Government said that it would abide by the orders passed by the Court.
After considering the submissions made by the parties, the Court has allowed the counsel for the Petitioners to find alternate accommodation for the foreign nationals. The Authorities shall inspect the suggested premises tomorrow and then file a status report before the Court.
The matter would be heard next on May 28.
The petitioners were represented by Senior Advocate Rebecca John and Advocate Ashima Mandla.