Tablighi Jamaat chief sent second notice with three more questions
The Delhi Police’s crime branch, which is probing the Tablighi Jamaat chief and his associates, has sent a second notice to Maulana Saad seeking answers to three more questions related to the religious gatherings in mid-March at the group’s six-storey headquarters in Nizamuddin Basti, which has emerged as the largest hot spot of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the country.
Saad and six other top Jamaat functionaries have been booked for violating several prohibitory orders issued to stop the spread of the disease (Covid-19) under sections of The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. Saad also faces charges of criminal conspiracy.
The Jamaat headquarters, also known as Markaz, has been linked to over 1,445 infections so far, or about 35% of the total cases in India across 17 states and union territories, as per details made available by the Union health ministry.
Saad’s counsel, advocate Fuzail Ayyubi, confirmed that the police have sent a second questionnaire to his client.
“The investigating officer (IO) has sought some information in the second questionnaire. We filed our reply to most of the questions in the first questionnaire and told them that for some questions, we needed time. We could not get access to some of the records they have sought because of the lockdown. They have asked for some clarifications in the second notice,” he said.
While crime branch officials declined to comment on the progress of the investigation, a police officer, who did not wish to be named, said the three questions seek details of the persons who attended the congregation inside the Markaz. The officer added that some of the documents and records that the Markaz provided in response to the first notice were in Urdu because of which they needed clarification.
On Sunday afternoon, a team of five experts from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) of Delhi government visited the Markaz building. “Delhi Police officers said they will send us the exhibits later. Our personnel who went inside the building have been advised to go in self-quarantine as a precautionary measure,” a forensic officer said, adding that no electronic device was recovered from the building.
In the first notice, which had 26 questions, sent on April 1, the IO sought details of CCTV cameras inside the building, and asked Saad to preserve all CCTV footage. Other information sought included the original register/data/records maintained by the building management with details of those who participated in gatherings after March 12. The police also sought details of all people, including foreigners, who were present in the building last month. There was also a question about the steps taken by the management to disperse the gathering after the government’s prohibitory orders were issued.
Police have accused Saad of ignoring the Delhi government’s March 13 and March 16 orders that put a ban on religious congregations, and restricted all gathering to not more than 200 people. The police have said that there were about 2,300 people inside the building despite the curbs.
Saad’s lawyer denied reports that the Tablighi chief was absconding. “We have not been summoned yet. The Maulana is in self-quarantine on doctors’ advice. He will cooperate with the police when they summon him,” Ayyubi said
The police have put barricades on all lanes leading to the Markaz. A total of 2,361 people, including about 250 foreigners, were evacuated from the building with the help of health department officers in an operation that began on March 29 and ended on March 31.
The evacuees were either sent to hospitals for tests, or to government-run quarantine centres.