6 Dec 2021 9:20 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response from the Delhi Police on the question as to whether there was any prohibition on any Indian national from keeping a foreigner at his residence who had come to India on a valid passport and visa at the relevant time last year for attending Tablighi Jamaat congregation.Justice Mukta Gupta was hearing a bunch of pleas filed by Indian nationals...
The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response from the Delhi Police on the question as to whether there was any prohibition on any Indian national from keeping a foreigner at his residence who had come to India on a valid passport and visa at the relevant time last year for attending Tablighi Jamaat congregation.
Justice Mukta Gupta was hearing a bunch of pleas filed by Indian nationals seeking quashing of the FIRs registered against them for sheltering the attendees of Tablighi Jamaat congregation in their homes or mosques amid the Covid-19 lockdown last year.
"When suddenly lockdown was imposed, people were static wherever they were. You have to find out, once lockdown was imposed, whereafter the persons were moving here and there and that they had visited these places even when there was prohibition," the Court told APP representing the Delhi Police.
During the course of hearing, Advocate Ashima Mandla representing the petitioners apprised the Court that the said foreign nationals have also been chargesheeted in FIR 63/2020, apart from the parent FIR registered by the Crime Branch involving similar offences.
At the outset, Justice Gupta told APP:
"Two organizations of the Delhi Police will file two chargesheets? That's permissible you want to say?"
While the APP responded that he was not concerned with the Chargesheet filed by the Crime Branch, the Court added:
"What do you mean you are not concerned? Can a person for the same offences be chargesheeted twice?"
"It doesn't work like this, filing half baked things before the Court."
The Court further added that there was no investigation that had taken place in the matter.
Mandla informed the Court that on March 31, last year, the parent FIR, FIR 63/2020 was registered by the Crime Branch under sec. 188, 269, 270, 120B , 271 of IPC and sec. 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act.
"This FIR was against the Indian nationals who are organizers of Markaz. Pursuant to this FIR, they took in 2048 people. It's just a number in the parent charegsheet. People were lodged all across Delhi in quarantine centres. We had to approach this Court in a habeas corpus in order to release them from quarantine centres because for two months they were put in quarantine. When we came to this Court, it's then the police tells us that we haven't kept them in detention or custody, we are just taking care of them but we can't allow you to go home now because there are cases against them," she told the Court.
"In the span of 3 days, there are 48 main chargesheets and 11 supplementary chargesheets against 935 people in May 2020. Out of that, 908 people entered plea bargains before Saket Court out of which remaining 44 went for trial. Out of the 44, 36 were acquitted and 8 were fully discharged of all offences," she added.
She then apprised the Court that according to the parent FIR, the people who were named in the Markaz FIR were staying in Chandni Mahal on the same day.
"The allegation today is that I, being an Indian National, have housed foreign nationals and that is my offence. Whether I have housed them in my personal house…Before your lordship there are 3 cases where they have gone to private houses and taken out people saying why are you giving refuge to women in houses. The three FIRs are there on record. The remaining one, they say the Committee of Masjid in Chandni Mahal have given refuge to foreign nationals," she added.
Accordingly, the Court directed the DCP, Central to file a detailed affidavit indicating whether the petitioners are accused in FIR 63/2020 registered by the Crime Branch.
"The affidavit of DCP will also indicate as to whether there was any prohibition for any Indian national to keep a foreigner at his residence who had come to India on a valid passport and visa at the relevant time," the Court added.
The Court also directed the APP to ensure that the status report filed in the petitions in terms of its previous order dated November 12 are brought on record.
The matter will now be heard on January 4.
Earlier, the Court had quizzed the Police as to where would the people have gone when a lockdown was suddenly imposed in the city.
"What is the offence committed? Is there any bar on residents of Madhya Pradesh to come and stay in Delhi or stay in any temple, masjid, gurdwara," the Court had said.
About the Petitions
Some of the petitioners stated that FIR No. 74/2020 registered against two of them under Sections 188, 269, 270, 120-B of the Indian Penal Code,1860, was wholly unwarranted, concocted and untenable in law, and further that they have been compelled to face unwarranted and unsubstantiated charges, infringing upon their personal liberty.
They also alleged that the FIR was lodged against them only on the basis of their alleged presence at Choti Masjid, Fatak Teliyan during the nation-wide lockdown imposed in light of Covid-19, and further stated that there was "no shred of evidence" to initiate such a case against them.
The petitioners also claimed that a bare perusal of the FIR would indicate that the only allegations against them was their alleged presence inside the Masjid along-with foreign nationals, however, there was no whisper of either any religious/social gathering being held inside the Masjid or of the petitioners being Covid-19 positive.
Other FIRs in question were FIR Nos. 89, 86, 82, 84 , 85, 76, 75, 80 and 79 registered at Chandni Mahal police station.
Case Title: MOHD ANWAR & ORS. v. STATE NCT OF DELHI