Karnataka HC quashes criminal case against nine foreign Tablighi Jamaat members

August 07, 2020 10:52 pm | Updated 10:52 pm IST - Bengaluru

The High Court of Karnataka has quashed the criminal cases registered against nine foreign nationals belonging to the Tablighi Jamaat on the condition that they immediately leave the country by giving an undertaking that they will not visit India again within the next 10 years. They also have to pay the fine amount that may be levied by the competent authority.

Though the court prima facie found that the Tourist Visa, under which they were allowed to enter India, did not allow them to indulge in activities permitted under the Missionary Visa, it allowed them to leave the country by adopting a similar concession given by the Madras High Court in the cases of Tablighi Jamaat members.

Justice Krishna S. Dixit passed the order on petitions filed by Farhan Hussain and three others from South Africa, Ibrahim Jassy and two others from Gambia, Rejo from Indonesia, and Saleh Imran Ahamed from the United States.

The petitioners were engaged in religious propagation in Tumakuru after attending the Tablighi Jamaat meet at Nizamuddin in Delhi, which later became a centre for the spread of COVID-19 in March. They were among the Tablighi Jamaat members blacklisted by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The petitioners questioned the legality of the criminal cases booked against them for violating the Foreigners Act, 1946.

The Union and State governments agreed to release the foreign nationals on the condition that they leave the country after giving an undertaking on not seeking entry for another 10 years.

The court said the criminal cases booked under the Foreigners Act would be revived and the investigation would continue if the nine foreign nationals failed to comply with any of the concessions granted to them.

However, the court declined to quash criminal cases against Syed Zubair of Tumakuru and two others, who had assisted the nine foreign nationals. It directed the police to complete the probe within six months.

The court also clarified that the concession shown to the foreign nationals should not be construed as an extension of their visa so as to facilitate their stay any longer than what was reasonably required for leaving the country. The HC also directed the Union government to ensure their exit from the country if they were not required in any other offences.

Role of police

While declining to accept the argument on behalf of the accused that the police had initiated action based on “prejudiced media propaganda”, the court said the police, who were performing yeoman service during the COVID-19 pandemic, had exercised a lot of restraint despite running a huge risk of infection and tolerating attacks/assaults.

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