New Delhi: A Delhi court Tuesday granted bail to 122 Malaysian nationals, who were charge-sheeted for attending Tablighi Jamat Markaz at Nizamuddin in the national capital by violating visa conditions, indulging in missionary activities illegally and violating government guidelines, issued in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
They also filed applications for plea bargaining which was listed before a Metropolitan Magistrate for July 8 for early disposal of the petitions.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur granted the relief to the foreigners on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 10,000 and referred the application for plea bargaining to Metropolitan Magistrate Siddharth Malik.
“Siddharth Malik, MM, South- East, is directed to expedite the disposal of the plea bargaining applications moved on behalf of all the accused persons in view of the guidelines given by the High Court of Delhi,” the judge said in the order.
As per procedure, plea bargaining means an accused pleads guilty to the offence and prays for a lesser punishment.
During the hearing, all the foreign nationals who were staying at a hotel were produced before the court through video conferencing.
They were identified by the concerned official of the Malaysian High Commission as well as the investigating officer.
The court further took cognisance of the 59 charge sheets filed against 956 foreign nationals belonging to 36 different countries in the case and summoned the accused to be produced on different dates through video conferencing
They had attended the event in March, following which in April COVID-19 cases across the country spiked after hundreds of many Tablighi Jamaat members, who had attended the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz event, tested positive.
According to the chargesheets, all the foreign nationals have been booked for violating visa rules, violating government guidelines issued in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and regulations regarding Epidemic diseases Act, Disaster Management Act and prohibitory orders under section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure.
They have also been for the offences under sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 270 (Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 271 (Disobedience to quarantine rule) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Foreigners Act.
“There is prima facie sufficient material on record to proceed against the accused persons u/s 14(b) Foreigners Act, 1946 r/w section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, r/w section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, r/w section 188/269/270/271 IPC who have been mentioned in the charge sheet.
“Accordingly, cognizance of the offences under section 14(b) Foreigners Act, 1946 r/w section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, r/w section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, read with sections 188/269/270/271 IPC is hereby taken. Let accused persons be summoned,” the court said.
The punishment for various offences under penal provisions ranges from six months to eight years of imprisonment.
The investigating officer told the court that the investigation was complete against the 956 foreign nationals in the case and each has been allegedly found to have independently committed the offence for which he/she has been charge-sheeted and has added that the further investigation is pending.
The Centre has cancelled their Visa and blacklisted them. The foreign nationals have not been arrested yet and are presently residing at various places approved by the Delhi High Court.
In April, COVID-19 cases across the country spiked after hundreds of many Tablighi Jamaat members, who had attended the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz event, tested positive.
At least 9,000 people, including the foreign nationals, participated in the religious congregation in Nizamuddin. Later, many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.
A FIR was registered against Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad Kandhalvi and six others on March 31 on a complaint of the Station House Officer of Nizamuddin under sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act (2005), Foreigners Act and other relevant sections of Indian Penal Code.
Kandhalvi was later booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder after some of the attendees of the religious congregation died due to Covid-19, police said.