Recently, the Bombay High court quashed a FIR against the Myanmar nationals and stated that “allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court.” after the court found lacking grounds for the charges framed.
The applicants who were foreign nationals were from Myanmar and were on a visit to India in March for attending religious seminars. They were on a tourist visa and traveled from Delhi to Nagpur. They were provided their schedule of activities to the local police station in Nagpur. The foreign nationals were shifted to Markaz center under police jurisdiction since the Janta curfew was declared and they were also taken to the hospital for their COVID-19 test. Their test results came negative and after that, they were informed about the FIR which was filed against them for various offences under the IPC, Foreigners Act, Epidemic Diseases Act, and the Disaster Management Act, and this led to an application in the High Court. The counsel of the applicant argued that the foreign nationals were under police monitoring the whole time and this leaves no scope for disobedience of any government order. Also, since the Covid-19 test result of these foreign nationals was negative, there was no question that they could spread this infectious disease. He further mentions the fact that his clients were well under their rights attending religious ceremonies as it is allowed on a tourist visa, therefore stating that the foreign nationals were not in contravention of any of the offenses they were charged within the FIR.
In defense, the state contended that these citizens of Myanmar were residing in the Markaz lal building in contravention of the order issued under section 144 of CrPC. The counsel for the state further stated that there was also a violation of the foreigners act as it is not permitted to them to engage in Tabligh work and preaching a religious ideology, making speeches in religious places. The foreign nationals were actively engaged in preaching activities that came to light due to statements of witnesses, the counsel contended. After going through all the facts presented by counsel of both the sides, came to a conclusion that the applicants i.e. The foreign nationals did not engage in any Tabligh work and were only exploring Indian Muslim culture. Along with this, they only studied Quran and offered Namaz which was not in contravention of The Foreigners Act. The court also emphasized on the fact that these foreign nationals were not a threat of spreading the infectious Covid-19 as they all were medically tested negative for COVID-19. There was no ground for other charges and wrongful jurisdiction of FIR and the investigating authority. The Court quashed the FIR and gave a statement that “Compelling the applicants to undergo the trial would cause grave injustice.”