A social worker filed a plea in the Delhi High Court on Thursday seeking the immediate release of nearly 3,300 members of an orthodox sect called the Tablighi Jamaat from different quarantine centres, PTI reported. The court is likely to hear the petition on Friday.

Thousands of Indians and hundreds of foreigners had attended a Tablighi Jamaat conference held in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in March. It later emerged as a coronavirus hotspot. After the event, many participants returned home across the country while others travelled to meetings, raising concerns about the scale of the potential spread of infection. Many members were placed in quarantine centres.

On April 5, the health ministry claimed that the religious gathering had pushed up the doubling rate of cases in India to 4.1 days from the estimated 7.4 days. Last month, the Centre had also said that the Tablighi Jamaat was responsible for over 30% of the then 14,378 cases in the country. India now has over 78,000 cases.

The petition in the High Court was filed by Sabiha Quadri through advocate Shahid Ali. Quadri said a total of 3,288 people from the Tablighi Jamaat have been in different quarantine centres for more than 40 days. She said that they have not been released despite testing negative for Covid-19.

On May 6, the Delhi government said that the Tablighi members who have completed mandatory quarantine and showed no symptoms of coronavirus could go home. Quadri alleged that the members were being kept in quarantine illegally, and that government guidelines were being violated. She claimed that many of them had also written letters to authorities but they were not considered.

Quadri’s petition said that detaining members of the sect under the garb of quarantine was not justified. It also asked to constitute a committee to investigate the deaths of two people in quarantine centres, and sought the filing of an FIR against the officials.

The petition was referring to the death of two Tablighi Jamaat members – Haji Rizwan and Mohamed Mustafa from Tamil Nadu – at a quarantine centre in Sultanpuri area of North West Delhi in April. The Delhi Minorities Commission had also expressed concern about the deaths and urged Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal to investigate the matter.

Delhi has so far recorded 7,998 cases and 106 deaths, according to figures from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.