New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday was informed by the Delhi Police that 84 foreigners connected to Tablighi Jamaat, who participated in the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz event in the national capital during the COVID-19 lockdown and are struck in Kolkata, will not be arrested if they cooperate in the investigation.
The police told the high court that it was ready to send its officials to West Bengal for the purpose of investigation as the foreigners were not able to travel to Delhi due to lockdown in Kolkata.
In view of the submissions made by the police, Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani said “accordingly, let investigation pursuant to notices be carried-out against the petitioners (foreigners) in Kolkata, in accordance with law”.
The high court also directed the Delhi government and police to update it regarding the investigation and proceedings on the next date of hearing, August 24.
The high court was hearing four petitions by the 84 foreign nationals seeking quashing of FIR registered on March 31 under various provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act, Foreigners Act and Indian Penal Code by the Crime Branch of Delhi Police. While three petitions were heard on Tuesday, the fourth one came up for hearing on Wednesday.
In the petitions, filed through advocate Musharraf Ali Khan, they have also sought quashing of the Look-Out Circulars (LoC) opened against them by the Bureau of Immigration. The foreigners further sought to quash the notices issued to them by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Crime Branch under the CrPC.
The foreign nationals belong to various countries, including the United States of America, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh. Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra and advocate Chaitanya Gosain, representing the Delhi government and police, submitted that these foreigners have not joined the investigation despite notices having been duly served upon them.
Mehra said since the investigation is not complete, no charge sheet has been filed against any of these foreign nationals as yet. He contended that if the petitioners co-operate in the investigation and furnish requisite information which warrants closure of cases against them, the authorities may not proceed against them at all.
Responding to this, Khan submitted that the foreigners were ready and willing to cooperate in the investigation. However, as they all are presently in Kolkata, which is under lockdown, they will not be able to travel to Delhi, he said.
To this, Mehra took instructions from Investigating Officer Satish Kumar and submitted that Delhi Police will send its officers to Kolkata for the purpose of investigation and confirmed that they will not require custodial interrogation of the foreigners and will not arrest them, if they cooperate in the probe. Delhi Police has filed 53 charge sheets in district courts here in respect of 955 other foreign nationals belonging to 35 countries.
908 foreigners were allowed by the trial court to be deported to their native countries after they admitted their guilt and pleaded for lenient punishments under the provisions of plea bargaining. They were allowed to walk free on payment of varying fines and pleading guilty for minor offences related to the COVID-19 lockdown violations. 47 foreigners have claimed trial.
After being exposed to a large gathering in March amid the COVID-19 or coronavirus lockdown many members of Tablighi Jamaat from Markaz Hazrat Nizamuddin were taken out by the authorities and lodged in different quarantine centres in Delhi.
Some of them were sent to the centres a few days later after being detained from various mosques. In April, COVID-19 cases in Delhi spiked after hundreds of many Tablighi Jamaat members, who had attended a large congregation in Nizamuddin, tested positive.
The other members were directly taken to quarantine centres to contain the spread of COVID-19.