The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday (9-June-2020) granted interim bail to six citizens of Bangladesh, accused of violating their visa condition by attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin in New Delhi in the month of March and then going to Lucknow without medical examination amidst the serious apprehension of spreading coronavirus during the lockdown.
Justice Attau Rahman Masoodi of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court was hearing a bail application filed by Mohammad Shafiullah and others involved in FIR/Crime No. 259/2020, under Section 188 IPC, Section 3 Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, Section 56 Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Section 13/14B/14C Foreigners Act, 1946, P.S. Madiyaon, District Lucknow.
The Court observed in case of Tablighi Jamaat that
“Article 20 of the Constitution of India guarantees equal protection to foreign nationals in the matter of trial in criminal cases and Article 21 guarantees protection of life and personal liberty in equal measure.”
In the Bail order, while noting various circumstances under which the applicants were arrested and complete facts of the case, Court observed that in an identical situation, the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court has already passed an order in Bail Application No. 2898 of 2020 on 2.6.2020 [Sagynbek Toktobolotov & Ors. v. State of U.P.] enlarging the similarly situated accused persons on bail against whom the F.I.R. under the same very penal provisions was registered.
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Notably, the prayer for bail in the present matter of Tablighi Jamaat was granted looking to the reasoning assigned in the order dated 2.6.2020. In Sagynbek Toktobolotov & Ors. v. State of U.P., while granting bail to six members of Tablighi Jamaat (all of them were citizens of Kyrgyzstan), the Court had stated that,
“…the applicants who have prayed for bail, even though are foreign nationals, cannot be deprived of their personal liberty except in procedure established by law and that they were also entitled to equal protection of law and equality before the law.”
Court also issued notice to the Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, and Government of India to enter into necessary communication with the Government of Bangladesh through its High Commission according to the treaty of extradition operative, if any, in this regard.
Court also left it open for the Government of India through Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi and Government of Bangladesh to decide the fate of the criminal cases otherwise than by way of a judicial trial.
The Ministry of External Affairs has also been tasked to apprise the Court as to how the participation of Tablighi Jamaat, the present applicants can be secured for conduct and conclusion of the trial, if for any reason, the same does not conclude within the period for which the tourist Visas granted by the Government of India remain operative.
‘Applicants are at liberty to receive disclosed financial support’
Court also asked the Central/State Government through the Ministry of External Affairs, after due consultation with the Government of Bangladesh to provide necessary financial help to the accused applicants for sustaining their life in a dignified manner inclusive of the medical aid, in the event, applicants run short of financial support from the above sources.
As per the Court’s order, the applicants will have to surrender before the court concerned immediately before the expiry of Visa, subject to further orders which may be passed by this Court.
The bench fixed July 16 for next hearing to consider the Bangladeshis’ plea for regular bail.