15 more charge sheets against 292 Tablighi foreigners
A day after 20 charge sheets were filed against 82 foreigners who are members of the Tablighi Jamaat, Delhi Police on Wednesday submitted 15 charge sheets indicting 292 more for violation of visa conditions, lockdown rules, spreading Covid-19 and breaking quarantine rules under different sections of the Foreigners Act, the Epidemic Disease Act and IPC.
Police said the accused attended a religious congregation at the Markaz, the headquarters of the Tableeghi Jamaat in Nizamuddin, in March. Now, the total number of foreigners chargesheeted in the case has risen to 374 in two days. The police have said that more than 900 people from 34 countries had arrived in India on a tourist visa or e-visa but “illegally indulged in missionary activities and attended the religious congregation, violating their visa rules”.
The 15 charge sheets, comprising 13,070 pages, were filed before the duty magistrate at the Saket district court who posted the matter for June 17. Of the 292 foreigners chargesheeted on Wednesday, 80 each are from Bangladesh and Malaysia while 44 and 39 are from Myanmar and Thailand respectively. The others are from countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, and South Africa, etc.
Senior crime branch officers said that the 292 foreigners belong to 14 different countries. They have all been booked under Section 14 (b) of the Foreigners Act, Section 3 of the Epidemic Disease Act, Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act and four sections (188, 269, 270 and 271) of the Indian Penal Code for violating visa conditions, lockdown rules, spreading the virus, and breaking quarantine rules, the police said in the statement.
The punishment for various offences under the penal provisions ranges from six months to eight years of imprisonment.
“The visas of all the 374 foreigners have been cancelled by the Central government and they have also been blacklisted for attending religious congregations posing as tourists,” Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said.
A senior investigator, who requested anonymity, said that of the 900-odd foreigners who illegally attended the congregation, the passports of only 723 have been recovered so far. The identity cards of 23 people from Nepal have also been seized by the investigating team, he said.
“There are nearly 200 foreigners whose passport and other documents related to their arrival and stay in India are yet to be found. All these foreigners are staying in various quarantine centres in Delhi. We have been making efforts to recover their passports,” the investigators said.
Crime branch officials said that more charge sheets will be filed against in the coming days.
In the last week of March, the police and health officials had evacuated around 2,500 persons from inside the Markaz. The building was also sealed after at least 21 Tablighi Jamaat members tested positive for Covid-19. The Tablighi Jamaat in its statement then had said that its members were trapped inside the building during the nationwide lockdown because there was no conveyance available.