A magistrate court in Andheri acquitted 20 foreign participants in a Tablighi Jamaat case in Delhi who were booked by the Mumbai Police for alleged breach of the rules of lockdown, ruling that there is no iota of evidence.
Metropolitan magistrate R.R. Khan said, “The witnesses were not found in a position to tell where and how the accused were residing at the time of the alleged offence. Thus, there is no iota of evidence with the prosecution to show any contravention of order beyond all shadow of a doubt. During the imposition of lockdown, their taking ultimate shelter in a mosque or nearby will not render them responsible for such contravention.”
The court said there is “no legal evidence adduced by the prosecution to show that the accused infringed on the notification lawfully made under the Bombay Police Act.” It also directed them to furnish bonds of 10,000.
At 10 a.m. Informant, SI Durgesh Harishchandra Salunkhe, and his associates visited Tayyaba Masjid in front of the Andheri Metro on 29 March and discovered that ten foreigners from the Kyrgyz Republic had arrived at the mosque after attending the Markaz Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi. They visited different places and individuals, spreading the infection with COVID-19, the informant said. He alleged that they violated the requirements of a lockout and ignored the City Police Commissioner's orders.
The court said, “From the combined perusal of the evidence of police officials and the prosecution, it is apparent that both of them have deposed that the accused have not committed violations of lockdown or curfew. Additionally, they have deposed that they neither entered the mosque nor noticed accused contravening lockdown norms. Ultimately, the prosecution witnesses themselves have clarified the position of the accused persons.”
They were charged under Sections 188 (disobedience to the order duly promulgated by the public servant), 269 (anyone who unlawfully or negligently commits any act that is, and that he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread any life-threatening illness shall be punished), 270 (malignant act likely to spread life-threatening illness) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860, along with relevant sections of the Disaster Management Act 2005, Foreigners Act 1946, Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 and Bombay Police Act 1951.
Later, Sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 304 (2) (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC were added. On June 17, a charge sheet was filed, and the prosecution relied on the statements of two witnesses. On October 7, 2020, charges were framed.