A court in Mumbai on Monday acquitted 20 foreign Tablighi Jamaat attendees who had been charged with violating coronavirus-related lockdown orders, Bar and Bench reported. The court noted that there wasn’t an “iota of evidence” to show that the foreign nationals had flouted the orders.
The Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Andheri passed two separate orders to acquit the foreign nationals, according to Live Law. Ten of them are from Indonesia, while the other ten are from Kyrgyzstan.
Metropolitan Magistrate RR Khan noted that the prosecution witnesses had admitted to not having seen the foreign nationals defy orders from the authorities. “There is no iota of evidence with prosecution to show any contravention of order by accused persons beyond all shadow of doubt,” Khan said. “There is no legal evidence adduced by prosecution to show that accused persons infringed the notification lawfully made under section 37 of Bombay Police Act.”
The Mumbai Police had filed cases against the foreign nationals in April. They were charged for offences under Sections 188 (disobedience of order of public servant), 269 and 270 (acts likely to spread infection of dangerous disease) of the Indian Penal Code. This is in addition to being charged under Sections of the Disaster Management Act, the Epidemic Diseases Act and Foreigners Act.
They were also charged under Sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 304(2) (homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code. These charges were quashed by the sessions court.
Earlier this month, the court had ordered that the accused be tried only under Section 135 of Bombay Police Act for flouting lockdown rules and orders from the commissioner of police, according to Hindustan Times. The foreign nationals had told the court that they stayed at a mosque because were not allowed to return to their countries due to travel restrictions, The Indian Express reported.
In September, the Bombay High Court had quashed a first information report and chargesheet filed against eight Myanmar nationals who attended a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin area of Delhi during the coronavirus-induced lockdown in March. The court said there was no evidence to show they indulged in any act, which was likely to spread the infection. Some sections of the media had linked the congregation to the spread of the coronavirus cases
In August, the court had cancelled three FIRs against 35 petitioners – 29 of them foreign nationals – who attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation and travelled from there to different parts of India. The court had said in its judgement that the foreigners had been made “scapegoats” and that the action against them was an “indirect warning to Indian Muslims” after the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.