The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed concern about the possible spread of coronavirus due to the large gatherings at the farmers’ protests against the three new agriculture laws, reported PTI.

The matter came up as a three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, was hearing a plea filed by lawyer Supriya Pandita, alleging that the Delhi Police had failed to control the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in the national Capital in March last year. The plea sought an inquiry into the matter by the Central Bureau of Investigation, according to PTI. Apart from the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, the plea also mentioned the assembly of a large number of migrant workers at the Anand Vihar bus terminal amid the countrywide lockdown.

During Thursday’s hearing, advocate Om Prakash Parihar, representing the petitioner, said the whereabouts of Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad should be looked into. However, Bobde interrupted him and said the court was more inclined to stop the spread of the coronavirus, reported Bar and Bench.

“Why are you interested in one person? Bobde said, according to PTI. “We are on the issue of Covid. Why do you want [a] controversy? We are interested that Covid-19 guidelines should be there.”

The chief justice then went on to mention that the gatherings at farm law protest sites can lead to a similar situation as the Tablighi Jamaat event, and asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta about the measures undertaken by the Centre to prevent the virus from spreading.

“You must tell us what is happening? Bobde said, according to Bar and Bench. “I don’t know if farmers are protected from Covid-19. Same problem may arise in the farmers’ protest too. We are trying to ensure that Covid does not spread. Ensure [that] guidelines issued are followed.”

The court also asked if the Centre had ascertained the reasons behind the Tablighi Jamaat incident, and issued a notice asking it to apprise about the steps taken at the farmers’ protest sites.

Mehta, who appeared on behalf of the Centre, told the bench that the investigation into the Jamaat gathering was still on, and said that he will file a reply into the matter of farmers’ protest within two weeks, reported the Hindustan Times.

Tablighi Jamaat event

The Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin, in March was blamed for thousands of coronavirus infections around the country in the initial weeks of the nationwide lockdown which began on March 25. The congregation was attended by many foreigners. The Tablighi Jamaat is a Sunni Muslim sect with followers in over 80 countries.

Some sections of the media had linked the congregation to a rise in the spread of the coronavirus cases. In September, the Centre had also informed the Rajya Sabha that the gathering led to a spurt in cases.

However, in the same month, the Bombay High Court had quashed a first information report against eight people from Myanmar, who attended the Tablighi event, saying that there was no evidence to show they indulged in any act that was likely to have spread the infection.

In August, too, the Bombay High Court quashed 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.