72 foreigners who attended Tablighi Jamaat congregation freed
All were accused of violating the lockdown and other government orders that banned religious congregations in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.Updated: Jul 11, 2020 01:06 IST
Seventy-two foreigners who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin in March were freed on Thursday after they entered a plea bargain and accepted the mild charges against them. Another court allowed bail to 82 other foreigners who had also attended the meet.
All were accused of violating the lockdown and other government orders that banned religious congregations in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With this, in the last three days, 249 of the 956 foreign nationals accused of attending the congregation have been granted bail, and 132 were freed.
In the court of metropolitan magistrate Siddharth Malik, 61 Malaysians agreed to a plea bargain where they accepted the mild charges against them, in return for their freedom on payment of a ₹7,000 fine against each of them, said their lawyer S Hari Haran. On Thursday, 60 Malaysians were freed on the same grounds.
A plea bargain is an arrangement between the prosecutor and accused whereby the latter pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence, or an agreement to drop other charges.
During the cognisance of the charge sheets on July 6, judge Malik was informed by the Investigating Officer (IO) that the 956 accused were also investigated for the charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and criminal conspiracy to endanger life or personal safety of others.“However, till date no evidence has come against the foreigners for these,” the investigation officer told the court.
Instead, they have pleaded guilty to the violations of the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act, prohibitory orders, disobeying orders from a public servant and other sections of the Indian Penal Code, all of which attracts a maximum of six months in prison. The Centre had already cancelled their visa and blacklisted them. According to Hari Haran, the complainants in the case--Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Lajpat Nagar, Additional Commissioner of Police at Lajpat Nagar and Inspector at Nizamuddin—did not object to their plea bargain applications.
Hari Haran also said that in case of the 11 other foreigners -- all Saudi nationals-- metropolitan magistrate Ashish Gupta accepted their plea bargain, also on the same lines as the Malaysians, and released them with a ₹10,000 fine.
“As per the mutually satisfactory disposition between the state and the convict , the convict is found to be entitled to be lenient view while deciding the quantum of sentence,” Gupta’s order read.
Later the, the Saudi nationals deposited the fine, following which Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur directed that they be deported to their country.
In another case, a Delhi court also granted bail to 82 Bangladeshis on a personal bond of ₹10,000 each. Appearing for them, advocates Ashima Mandla and Mandakini Singh said that the accused have also moved for a plea bargain.
During the hearing, the foreign nationals, who were staying at a hotel, were produced before the court through video.
The police had filed charge sheets against 956 foreigners from 36 countries, including 122 Mayalsians, for violating visa rules, violating government guidelines issued in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and regulations regarding Epidemic diseases Act, Disaster Management Act and prohibitory orders under section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure.
They were also accused of offences under sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 270 (Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 271 (Disobedience to quarantine rule) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Foreigners Act.