New Delhi: A sessions court at Saket Courts complex on Wednesday dismissed the criminal revision petitions moved by 35 foreign nationals, who attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, against framing of charges against them.
While dismissing petitions, Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav stated: “In the present case, it cannot be said that materials placed by investigating agency before the trial court are wholly insufficient for trial“.
The court also observed that sufficient material was placed by the investigating agency before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) to frame charge under Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, Section 51 of Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Section 188 & 269 IPC against petitioner.
The Court found no infirmity, illegality, or irregularity in the impugned order. The revision petition is devoid of merit and the same is accordingly dismissed.
Senior Advocate Rebecca John, Advocate Ashima Mandla, and Mandakini Singh represented the petitioners while Advocate Atul Srivastava and Additional Public Prosecutor appeared for respondent/State and argued at length.
Rebecca John submitted that petitioner along with other persons have not been identified in the charge sheet as the only word used in the charge sheet is ‘foreigners’ and it has not been clarified as to who were these foreigners.
She also argued that all the international flights were suspended on March 19, 2020, Janta Curfew was imposed on March 22 and a nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25 so accused persons couldn’t move back to their countries.
On March 28, the MHA issued an order to deport back the foreigners who tested negative for the novel coronavirus, but when foreigners tried to go back to their countries they were stopped at the airport. It was also submitted that theses people were peacefully residing inside the markaz as they had no other place to stay.
Markaz was not a public place as it was closed for the general public, she argued.
Advocate Atul Srivastava, Additional Public Prosecutor for State submitted that the charge has been rightly framed against the petitioner.
Regarding the identity of the petitioner, he submitted that various police officers who examined the petitioner and other persons have given their statements wherein they have named petitioners and other persons.
He submitted that in so many cases accused were not identified during the investigation but they were identified in the Court and that was considered to be proper identification.
“Petitioner and other Tablighi Jamatis have disobeyed regulations and lockdown directions despite being repeatedly asked by local police and other authorities to so so. Hence, prima facie case under Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act is made out against the petitioner,” Srivastava told the court.
The petitioner through this revision petition 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 circumstance“.
The revision 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.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur had recently framed charges against these foreign nationals for attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin, allegedly neglecting and disobeying government guidelines issued in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CMM 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.