A court in Delhi on Friday granted bail to 82 Bangladeshis who were chargesheeted for attending a Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz in the city in March, PTI reported. Similarly, 62 Malaysian and 11 Saudi Arabian nationals were released after payment of fines by another local court.
This came a day after 60 Malaysian nationals were released after payment of fines.
The congregation, which was held in violation of the law, has been blamed for thousands of coronavirus infections around the country in the initial weeks of the nationwide lockdown that started on March 25. The congregation was attended by many foreigners. The Tablighi Jamaat is a Sunni Muslim sect with followers in over 80 countries.
On Friday, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur granted bail to the foreigners on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 10,000 each. Advocates Ashima Mandla and Mandakini Singh, appearing for the Bangladeshi nationals, said they will file their plea bargaining applications later in the day.
Metropolitan Magistrate Siddharth Malik allowed the 62 Malaysian nationals to be released on payment of Rs 7,000 each after they filed a plea seeking lesser sentence under the petition bargaining process by accepting mild charges.
Another court of Metropolitan Magistrate Ashish Gupta allowed 11 Saudi Arabian nationals to walk free under the plea bargaining process upon their payment of Rs 10,000 each.
The Malaysians and foreigners from Saudi Arabia were represented by advocate S Hari Haran. Sub-divisional magistrate of Lajpat Nagar, who was the complainant in the case, additional commissioner of police of Lajpat Nagar and inspector of Nizamuddin, said they have no objection to their pleas.
The court conducted the proceedings through videoconferencing in the wake of the coronavirus. Under the system of plea bargaining, the accused can plead guilty to the allegations against them, in exchange for lesser punishment. India’s Code of Criminal Procedure allows plea bargaining for cases in which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for seven years. It also allows the system when the offences in question do not affect the socioeconomic conditions of the society, or when they are not committed against a woman, or a child below 14 years of age.
At least 956 foreigners had attended the congregation in Delhi. The police told the court on Thursday that there was no evidence to file charges of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” against any of them.
The police, however, added that they were still conducting investigations against other accused, including Maulana Saad Kandhlawi and his son. Kandhlawi has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder after some of the attendees died of the coronavirus.
The Centre had last month blacklisted over 2,500 Tablighi members and prohibited their entry into the country for 10 years. The action was taken after several state governments submitted information on those who had been accused of illegally living in mosques and seminaries.