The Delhi High Court on Friday pulled up the police for filing first information reports against Indians who gave shelter to foreigners who attended the Tablighi Jamaat conference in the city in March last year, Live Law reported.

The religious conference had taken place on March 9 and 10 in Delhi’s densely populated Nizamuddin area. On March 25, a nationwide lockdown was imposed in India to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The Tablighi Jamaat congregation was blamed for thousands of coronavirus infections around the country in the initial weeks of the lockdown. The event had renewed stigma against Muslims, triggering a wave of business boycotts and hate speech.

The Delhi High Court was hearing a petition filed by those who hosted foreigners, seeking to quash the FIRs registered against them.

At the hearing, Justice Mukta Gupta noted that foreigners who came to India for the event stayed in homes and mosques and when the lockdown came into force, they could not move elsewhere, the Hindustan Times reported.

“Wherever anybody was residing, the person needed to continue,” the judge said. “A person could not even shift if they were with their grandparents, parents. Nobody could go out of the house. Wherever you were, you were just suddenly static. So, there was no question of changing the place at that time.”

The judge asked the police what offence the hosts had committed, PTI reported.

Gupta added: “Is there any bar on Madhya Pradesh residents to stay in Delhi in any mosque, temple or gurudwara? They can stay wherever they want. Was there a notice that everybody will throw out whosoever was staying [with them]?”

The petitioners in the case told the court that in the FIR, they were wrongly accused of spreading disease, PTI reported. They claimed that the accusations against them were “unwarranted, concocted and untenable in law”, according to Live Law.

The Delhi High Court directed the police to submit a detailed report on the matter and set the next date of hearing on December 6.

Several cases were filed against people who attended the congregation for reasons such as allegedly disobeying the government’s Covid-19 guidelines or violating the conditions of their visa. But courts have quashed most of the FIRs and acquitted the members.