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Bombay HC quashes FIR against tablighis

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Thursday quashed the FIR and the chargesheet filed against Myanmar nationals booked for Tablighi activities and said, “Compelling the applicants to undergo the trial would cause grave injustice.”

On September 21, a division bench of justices V.M. Deshpande and Amit B. Borkar was hearing a plea filed by eight nationals. They landed on March 22 and from March 24 till March 31 they were sent to institutional quarantine despite testing negative for COVID 19. On April 5, they were booked under the Foreigners Act, Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act for quashing the FIR and chargesheet. They were also booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code.

The State government argued that after the tourists arrived in India they started preaching activities and participated in religious activities violating conditions of the visa manual. On July 21, a chargesheet was filed based on statements of witnesses and other evidence collected by investigating agencies claiming that there is ample material on record to prosecute the applicants.

The advocate appearing for the applicants said all of them are not conversant with the local language; they had studied the Quaran and Hadis in their language. There is no material produced by the prosecution to prove that they were engaged in tabligh work and they were involved in preaching religious ideology or making speeches in religious places. There is no material produced by the prosecution in the chargesheet, which even prima facie proves contravention of the visa manual.

The court said, “We are of the opinion that the investigating authorities acted without jurisdiction in registering the FIR under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) based on a complaint by the police. The investigation conducted by the police was also without jurisdiction.”

The 20 page order read, “We are of the opinion that allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the court in as much as there was an express legal bar against the institution of FIR against an accused based on the police report. Compelling the applicants to undergo the trial would cause grave injustice.”

While quashing the FIR and chargesheet, the court noted, “There is no material on record to prove that applicants had indulged in any act which was likely to spread infection of COVID-19. Therefore, from the material produced in the chargesheet, there is no evidence to substantiate the fulfilment of ingredients of Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code.”

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 11:02:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bombay-hc-quashes-fir-against-tablighis/article32688505.ece

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