The Delhi High Court Friday said its division bench will hear next week, a plea seeking release of 916 foreign nationals, who participated in the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz event and are held in institutional quarantine since March 30 despite being tested negative for COVID-19.
The petition came up for hearing before Justice Navin Chawla, who said it should be listed before a division bench as per the roster on May 26.
“In my opinion, this petition should have been listed before a Division Bench of this court as per the roster. The petition should also be renumbered as a Criminal Writ Petition. Subject to the orders of the Chief Justice, list this petition before the Division Bench on May 26”, the judge said.
The high court also said that a copy of the petition be served to the Delhi government’s counsel for seeking appropriate instructions.
While the plea was initially filed as a habeas corpus, the petitioner’s counsel said it should be treated as a criminal writ petition. A habeas corpus plea is filed to seek production of a person in illegal or unlawful detention.
The petition has challenged a May 9 order of Delhi government’s Department of Revenue which had directed for handing over of 567 foreign nationals, presently held in institutional quarantine, to the custody of Delhi Police after being tested negative for the virus.
Petitioners Mohammad Jamal and others said the order is ultra vires to the right to equality before law and right to life and liberty.
The petition has been filed by 20 of the 916 foreigners saying the continued detention violates the very fabric of liberty.
“The reason for extreme urgency is that the holy month of Ramadan is going to end and the festival of Eid is coming in another two-three days, if the 916 foreign nationals, including the petitioners are allowed to remain in alleged quarantine all confined and isolated, the same will result into an infringement of their fundamental rights”, the petition, filed through advocate Ashima Mandla, said.
The plea said FIRs were lodged by the Delhi Police in relation to the Markaz congregation against unknown persons. It said the Delhi government’s Revenue Department’s order directing for handing over custody of 567 foreign nationals under institutional quarantine to the custody of the Delhi Police, upon being tested negative for Covid-19, is prima facie illegal and untenable in law.
After being exposed to a large gathering in March amid the COVID-19 or coronavirus lockdown many members of Tablighi Jamaat from Markaz Hazrat Nizamuddin were taken out by the authorities and lodged in different quarantine centres in Delhi. Some of them were sent to the centres a few days later after being detained from various mosques.
In April, COVID-19 cases in Delhi spiked after hundreds of many Tablighi Jamaat members, who had attended a large congregation in Nizamuddin, tested positive.
The other members were directly taken to quarantine centres to contain the spread of COVID-19.
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