The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday (30th September) directed that the cases pending against the members of Tablighi Jamaat in Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Prayagraj, Varanasi and Lucknow Zones be transferred to Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow.
Likewise cases pending in Agra and Meerut Zones be transferred to Chief Judicial Magistrate, Meerut.
Lastly, the cases pending in Bareilly Zone be transferred to Chief Judicial (10) Magistrate, Bareilly. The names of different districts which fall under the aforesaid zones have been mentioned in the Judgment attached below.
Notably, the Division Bench of Justice Shashi Kant Gupta and Justice Shamim Ahmed was hearing the petition/application filed on behalf of the State of U.P. in pursuance of the order dated 6.8.2020 passed by the Apex Court with a prayer:-
To transfer the cases registered against the members of Tablighi Jamat in different districts within their concerned zones or pass such other or further orders, which this Court may deem fit.
Cases against the members of Tablighi Jamaat
It may be noted that criminal prosecution was launched against the foreigners who had come to attend the conference of Tablighi Jamat held at New Delhi for violating the pandemic guidelines and committing penal offences.
A Petition was filed by Maulana Ala Hadrami and others before the Apex Court challenging such criminal prosecutions instituted against the members of Tablighi Jamat.
An Interim Application No. 84676 of 2020 was filed by interveners before the Apex Court raising two-fold grievances.
It may be noted that the Supreme Court on Friday (04th September) had allowed the consolidation of multiple FIRs from Uttar Pradesh against foreign nationals for their alleged involvement in Tablighi Jamaat activities and agreed to transfer pending trials before specified courts.
The Bench comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna had ordered the State Government to approach the Principal Bench of Allahabad High Court with an application to decide which, and how many, courts would take up the trials pending across various zones in UP.
"The prosecution in the present set of cases (State of Uttar Pradesh) shall forthwith move a formal application before the Principal Seat of the Allahabad High Court for appropriate relief(s), which we are certain would be considered in light of and in terms of order dated 06.08.2020 in reference to similar cases in the N.C.T. of Delhi. The application to be moved by the State of Uttar Pradesh may be dealt with preferably by the senior-most Judge of the Allahabad High Court, taking up the criminal assignment, expeditiously. After the application is moved by the State of Uttar Pradesh and is disposed of by the High Court, the Trial Court(s) shall endeavour to dispose of the concerned criminal cases within eight weeks from the date the same are transferred to such Court(s). We place on record that the parties have assured this Court that complete cooperation will be extended to the trial Court(s) for expeditious disposal of pending criminal cases including to participate in the proceedings through video conferencing."
The Court had also directed the High Court to identify the specific court(s) within a period of one week where all the matters may be listed for hearing.
Notably, in paragraph 5 of the application/petition, it was stated that a large numbers of cases have been registered against the members of Tablighi Jamat in different districts of State of Uttar Pradesh.
It has been further stated that in order to maintain law and order, the State of Uttar Pradesh has been divided into eight zones. Each zone comprises a number of districts.
Arguments of the Counsel for the Petitioners
Manish Goyal, the counsel for the petitioners submitted that the Apex Court was also fully aware about the difficulties of the prosecution agency, as such, the Apex Court in its order dated 4.9.2020 has not specifically directed that the trial be conducted in a single Court, but instead has specifically used the words "trial Court (s)" giving discretion to this Court to transfer the cases to one or more Courts, as such, it has been prayed that the cases which are pending in various districts be transferred to at least 2 or 3 districts so that it could be decided in accordance with the directions passed by the Apex Court.
Accordingly, the Court issued a direction to the Chief Secretary, State of Uttar Pradesh to transfer the criminal cases pending against the members of Tablighi Jamat in the manner as provided in the present Judgment (please refer to the initial paragraphs of this report).
In view the directions issued by the Apex Court in its order dated 4.9.2020, the Court issued directions to the State as well as to the respective Courts for disposal of all the aforementioned cases as follows:
1. The records of all the criminal cases pending against the members of Tablighi Jamat in different District Courts be transferred to their respective Courts as indicated hereinabove preferably within a period of 2 weeks from today.
2. All the criminal cases pending against the members of Tablighi Jamat would be heard and decided by the respective Chief Judicial Magistrates as indicated hereinabove within 8 weeks from the date of receipt of the record by the concerned Courts.
3. All the matters would be heard as far as possible by the concerned Courts through video-conferencing as the Apex Court while deciding the matter has categorically recorded the assurance of the parties that complete cooperation will be extended to the trial Courts for expeditious disposal of pending criminal cases including to participate in the proceedings through video conferencing.
With this observation, this writ petition was finally disposed of.
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