Nagpur: Bombay HC quashes FIR against eight Myanmar nationals booked for ‘Tablighi activities’
The bench was also of the opinion that “allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court, especially because of lack of evidence supporting the charges levelled against the foreigners”Updated: Sep 24, 2020, 12:46 IST
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court on Monday struck down offences registered against eight Myanmar Muslims accused of engaging in “Tablighi activities”.
“Compelling the applicants to undergo a trial would cause grave injustice,” said a bench comprising justices VM Deshpande and Amit Borkar while striking down the FIR registered by the tehsil police station at Nagpur against the group that visited the city in March 2020, just before the imposition of the nationwide lockdown in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bench was also of the opinion that “allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court, especially because of lack of evidence supporting the charges levelled against the foreigners”.
The tehsil police had booked them under sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by a 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) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 14 (contravention of any provision, order or direction issued under the Act) of the Foreigners Act, Section 3 (disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act) of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1987 and Section 51 (refusing to comply with order issued by the Centre or State government) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
All eight Myanmar nationals had moved the court to quash the FIR and the charge sheet filed against them.
They were booked under Section 14 on the Foreigners Act primarily on the ground of violating two clauses the Visa Manual, which prohibits foreigners from engaging in preaching religious ideology or making religious speeches in India.
The high court, however, found no material to support the accusation. It noted from witness statements that the foreigners only read the Quran and offered namaz at a local mosque. They did not even know Hindi and therefore there was no question of them of engaging any religious discourse or speech.
The bench also found no material to support the charges under sections 269 and 270, as the Myanmar Muslims had undergone Covid-19 tests and their results were negative, despite which they were kept in isolation. “There is no material on record to prove that applicants had indulged in any act which was likely to spread Covid -19,” said the bench.
With regard to Section 188 of the IPC, the bench said the police could not have applied the section on their own in the first place. Only the district collector, who issued lockdown orders at the local level or one of his subordinates could have lodged a complaint, that too, with the judicial magistrate concerned.