On December 15, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) of Saket Court, Arun Kumar Garg acquitted all 36 foreigners accused in the Tablighi Jamaat case, noting that the prosecution failed to prove the presence of the accused inside the Markaz premises and contradictions in the witness statements. Advocate Ashima Mandla, along with Ahmed Khan and Fahim Khan represented the accused persons.
According to the Indian Express, the CMM noted that none of the accused foreigners were present at the Markaz during the relevant period and that they had been maliciously picked up from different places to be prosecuted upon the directions from the Ministry of Home Affairs on defying the Covid Guidelines. The 36 foreigners hail from 14 different countries including US, Russia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Thailand, etc.
“It is beyond comprehension of the court, as to how IO (Inspector Satish Kumar) could have identified 952 foreign nationals out of 2,343 persons who, as per SHO, were found flouting the guidelines, without any Test Identification Parade (TIP), but on the basis of list provided by MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs),” CMM Garg reportedly said.
The Saket court also noted the improvement made by Station House Officer (SHO) Mukesh Walia in his statements and said, “The SHO was aware of the actual number of persons gathered at Markaz since the beginning and still failed to take any timely measures to ensure dispersal of the said gatherings despite being aware of Government guidelines.”
“Else, if he was not so aware of the actual or even approximate numbers staying inside Markaz till the last day of evacuation exercise, he in all probability is deposing falsely about his daily visits to Markaz…In any case, his testimony has failed to pass the test of creditworthiness and hence identification by him of the accused persons in the court is not sufficient to discharge the onus of prosecution to prove the presence of accused at Markaz during the relevant period”, remarked the court.
The foreigners were charged under section 3 (disobeying orders/ regulations) of the Epidemic Diseases Act, sections 51 (punishment for obstruction) and 58 (offences committed by a body corporate) of the Disaster Management Act and sections 188 (disobedience to order by public servants) and 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease) of the Indian Penal Code.
Of the 44 foreigners, eight were discharged by a magistrate court on August 24, 2020 of all charges under which they were charge sheeted in the absence of any record or credible material against them. The remaining eight were acquitted yesterday on similar grounds citing lack of evidence.
As per the media, 952 foreigners were accused of breaking Covid violations by Delhi Police. Over 900 of them had pleaded guilty as a part of a plea bargain because they did not want to stay back in India till the completion of the trial that could take months.
A petition was also filed by the Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind against toxic reportage that vilified the Tabhligi members and the Supreme Court had pulled up the Centre for their brazen and offensive response denying such reporting and observed that the freedom of speech has been the most abused freedoms.
Apart from the Delhi court, High Courts of Bombay, Allahabad, Madras, Karnataka have also rebuked the argument of Tablighi Jamaat members being major Covid spreaders, eventually absolving them of all charges.
The judgment can be read here: