A Delhi court Saturday (July 11) granted bail to 75 foreign nationals from Thailand and Nepal, who were charged with attending a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in the national capital allegedly in violation of visa norms, indulging in missionary activities illegally and violating government guidelines issued in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur granted the relief to the foreigners on furnishing a personal bond of ₹10,000 each.
Till date, 445 foreign nationals from 33 different countries, who were charge-sheeted in the case have been granted bail by the court. The police had in June filed 59 charge sheets against 956 foreigners belonging to 36 different countries in the case.
The accused who were granted bail Saturday will file their plea bargaining applications on Monday (July 13), said advocates Ashima Mandla, Mandakini Singh and Fahim Khan, appearing for them. Under plea bargaining, the accused plead guilty to the offence, praying for a lesser punishment.
The Criminal Procedure Code allows for plea bargaining in cases where the maximum punishment is a seven-year imprisonment; offences don’t affect the socio-economic conditions of the society and the offence is not committed against a woman or a child under 14 years of age.
During the hearing, all the foreigners were produced before the court through video conferencing. The court had granted bail to 122 Malaysians on Tuesday and 91 other foreigners from 21 countries on Wednesday, 76 foreign nationals from eight countries on Thursday and 82 Bangladeshi nationals on Friday.
The investigating officer had earlier told the court that the investigation was completed against the 956 foreigners in the case and each has been allegedly found to have independently committed the offence for which he /she has been charge-sheeted. Further investigations are pending, the IO said.
These foreigners had attended the event in March, following which in April COVID-19 cases across the country spiked after hundreds of Tablighi Jamaat members, who had attended the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz, tested positive.
According to the police, all the foreigners have been booked for violation of visa rules, guidelines issued in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act and prohibitory orders under section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure.
They have also been booked for offences under sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by 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) and 271 (Disobedience to quarantine rule) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Foreigners Act.
The punishment for these offences ranges from six months to eight years’ imprisonment.
The Centre has cancelled their visas and blacklisted them. The foreigners have not been arrested yet and are residing at various places approved by the Delhi High Court.
At least 9,000 people including the foreign nationals participated in the religious congregation of the Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin Markaz. Later, many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.
An FIR was registered against Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad Kandhalvi and six others on March 31 on a complaint of the Station House Officer of Nizamuddin under sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act (2005), Foreigners Act and other relevant sections of Indian Penal Code.
Kandhalvi was later booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder after some of the attendees of the religious congregation died due to COVID-19, police said.