The Delhi High Court on Monday pulled for the police for poor investigation in the Tablighi Jamaat case, reported Bar and Bench.
A bench of Justice Mukta Gupta was hearing petitions seeking the quashing of first information reports filed against people who had given shelter to foreigners attending a Tablighi Jamaat conference in the city in March last year.
The religious conference had taken place on March 9 and 10 in Delhi’s densely populated Nizamuddin area. On March 25, a countrywide 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.
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.
During Monday’s hearing, the police told the court that the attendees came sometime in March but there was no exact date as to when they arrived and stayed in the homes of the accused persons.
The additional public prosecutor submitted that the police made inquiries to find the exact dates of their stay but could not gather the exact information.
To this, Justice Gupta replied: “Then you officers don’t deserve to be investigating officers...The problem is no investigation has been done in the matter.”
The High Court also sought to know from the police whether there was any prohibition on Indians from sheltering a foreigner at their homes around the time of the congregation, reported The Indian Express.
“If there was no [lockdown] notification, everybody was free to live and when suddenly lockdown was imposed, people were static wherever they were,” the judge said. “You have to find out that once lockdown was imposed, thereafter [if] the persons were moving here and there.”
Advocate Ashima Mandla, appearing for the petitioners, told the High Court that the police have filed two sperate FIRs and two different chargesheets in the case.
“Two organisations of the Delhi Police will file two chargesheets?” the High Court asked. “That’s permissible you want to say?”
The additional public prosecutor said he was not concerned with the chargesheet filed by the police’s Crime Branch.
“What do you mean you are not concerned?” the judge responded. “Can a person for the same offences be chargesheeted twice? It doesn’t work like this, filing half baked things before the court.”
The High Court then directed the police to file an affidavit in the case and also show whether the petitioners are also accused in the FIR filed by the Crime Branch. The matter has been listed for hearing on January 4.
In the earlier hearing on November 12, the High Court had pulled up the police for filing two FIRs and asked if housing foreigners who attended the congregation was an offence.