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Bombay HC quashes FIRs against foreigners who attended Tablighi Jamaat congregation

The Bombay High Court said there was big propaganda in the media against foreigners attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, and an attempt was made to create a picture that they were responsible for spreading COVID-19 in India

August 22, 2020 / 02:57 PM IST

Observing that “the Maharashtra Police acted mechanically”, the Bombay High Court on August 21 quashed First Information Reports (FIRs) against foreign nationals who attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in March, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Aurangabad bench comprising Justices TV Nalawade and MG Sewlikar said it appeared that the state government “acted under political compulsion” and the “police also did not dare to exercise powers given to them under provisions of procedural laws and substantive laws”.

“A political government tries to find the scapegoat when there is pandemic or calamity and the circumstances show that there is probability that these foreigners were chosen to make them scapegoats,” The Hindu quoted the bench as saying.

In its judgement, the court said the allegations levelled against these foreign nationals were “very vague in nature”. It also said, "From these allegations inference is not possible at any stage that they were spreading Islam religion and there was intention of conversion. The government cannot give different treatment to citizens of different religions of different countries.”

The High Court was hearing a petition filed by 29 foreign nationals who were booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Epidemic Diseases Act, Maharashtra Police Act, Disaster Management Act and Foreigner's Act for allegedly violating tourist visa conditions by attending the congregation.

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According to Live Law, the court also said there was “big propaganda” in the media against the foreigners who had come to Markaz in Delhi and “an attempt was made to create a picture that these foreigners were responsible for spreading COVID-19 virus in India. There was virtually persecution against these foreigners”.

Reminding authorities about the Indian philosophy “Atithi Devo Bhava (guest is our God)”, the bench said “more tolerance” and sensitivity should have been shown towards the “guests particularly like the present petitioners” especially during the pandemic.

“The allegations made show that instead of helping them we lodged them in jails by making allegations that they are responsible for violation of travel documents, they are responsible for spreading of virus etc.”

The circumstances and the latest COVID-19 infection figures in India show that such action against present petitioners should not have been taken, the court said.

It also asked authorities “to repent about this action” and take “some positive steps” to repair the damage that has been done.
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first published: Aug 22, 2020 02:56 pm
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