The Court of Metropolitan Magistrate (12th Court, Bandra, Mumbai) discharged 12 Indonesian nationals, part of the Tablighi Jamaat, of all the charges levelled against them.
The Discharge plea for Tablighi Jamaat foreign nationals was filed before the metropolitan magistrate’s court by the Lawyer Ishrat Khan, which stated that – “The present applicants were sought to be implicated only on the ground that they are foreigners and were present during the announcement of lockdown due to the outbreak of Covid-19.”
The accused were arrayed as accused in the crime number 280/2020, registered under Section 188, 269, 270 of Indian Penal Code r/w Section 3, 4 of Epidemic Disease Act 1897 r/w Section 14 (b) of the Foreigners Act and Section 51 of The Disaster Management Act, 2005.
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It was clarified by the Counsel of the Accused that they came to Delhi on 29-02-2020, 02-03-2020 and 06-03-2020 (in different batches). Thereafter, all the accused left Delhi by train and reached Mumbai on 07-03-2020. During that period the Central and the State Government announced Lockdown on accont of COVID-19.
Therefore, it was submitted, they were unable to move and leave the Country. During that period, as per the Central and State Government’s directions, the applicants carried their COVID-19 test.
In that test, the accused no.1 to 10 tested negative and accused No. 11 and 12 tested positive and later the Accused no. 11 and 12 also tested negative.
It was submitted that the Accused have been falsely involved in this crime of Tablighi jamaat. They were not all concerned with this crime and that they weren’t the carriers of COVID-19 infection.
The Counsel of Accused of tablighi jamaat also submitted that initially, the police had registered the Crime under Section 307 and 304 (2) of the Indian Penal Code. However, when the Police did not find sufficient reasons to continue with the said charges, they deleted those sections after thorough investigation.
It was submitted that as per the provisions of The Foreigners Act [Section 14 (b)], the Visa of all accused was a tourist Visa.
At the time of registration of Crime, Visas of all the accused of tablighi jamaat were valid, therefore, the question does not arise related to the breach the Section 14 (b) of the Foreigners Act.
It was stated before the Court that the Investigation papers also revealed that the accused are not liable to spread COVID and therefore, the Accused are not liable under Section 188, 269 of IPC and Section 14 (b) of the Foreigners Act. The Accused are also not liable for National Disaster management Act. Therefore, it was prayed that they be discharged of all the offences.
The Court observed that the Crime no. 280/2020 was registered against the Accused under Section 307 and 304 (2) of IPC r/w the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Disease Act.
The Court also found that the Police seized the Visa of all the accused by preparing the panchnama; the panchnama revealed that at the time of registration of offence, the VISAs of all accused were valid and they came to India on Tourist Visa.
Firstly, the Court noted, the Investigation officer submitted that the Accused of tablighi jamaat were liable for spreading COVID-19 infection and they did not follow the rules the rules and regulation of the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Disease Act and hence, they are liable for the offences registered against them.
While perusing the Charge sheet filed by the Investigation officer, the Court took into account the fact that firstly, the offence was registered against the accused under Section 307 and 304 (2) of IPC and thereafter, section 307 and 304 (2) of IPC was deleted by the I.O.
At the time of deletion of the said sections of IPC, the IO stated that the accused were not liable for spreading the COVID-19 in public at large and hence, they deleted Section 307 and 304 (2) of IPC.
The Court issued:
A. The Accused be discharged from charge levelled against them
B. The seized passports be returned to accused with due identification
C. The bail bond of the accused stands cancelled.
“After going through the Judgment of Bombay High Court and the facts and circumstances of the case, it does not reveal that the accused had deliberately disobeyed the order duly promulgated by the Public Servant as well as negligently, they were acting in the manner as was likely to spread the infection of the disease dangerous to life.”