After 57 foreign Tablighi Jamaat members were released from jail on June 13, the wait for their return to home countries has got longer as Saharanpur police are yet to receive clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). They have been staying at a private resort in the district for two weeks.
The foreign nationals from 10 countries had served one-month jail term in the Saharanpur district jail for not informing the administration about their participation in a congregation at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz, which was one of the coronavirus hotspots, in March this year.
On June 10, a local court asked the jail authorities to release the 57 Tablighi members after their jail term ended. When they finally walked out of the prison three days later, they were finally taken to a resort for lack of other accommodation options.
“We are waiting for direction from Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) which had asked us to wait for its instruction. After obtaining instructions, we will take the next course of action,” Additional Superintendent of Police, Saharanpur, Vineet Bhatnagar, adding that police have been deployed near the resort area.
Saharanpur SSP Shivasimpi Channappa said they are in touch with the Central government and “as per its direction they would be sent back to their countries soon”.
Several Tablighi Jamaat members, including the 57 foreign nationals, were arrested in March as they were staying at different places in the district without informing the administration about their participation in the Delhi congregation. They were sent to a quarantine center in Saharanpur. The foreign nationals were booked in six different cases lodged at four police stations. After the quarantine period ended, police took the foreign nationals in custody in April and later they were sent to jail. The 57 members are from 10 countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sudan, France and others, said police.
In June, police filed charge sheet against the 57 accused under different IPC sections, including 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule). The police also pressed charges under section 3 of the Epidemic Disease Act and the Foreigners Act.
Defence Counsel Chaudhary Jannisar Ahmed said he had argued in the court that the accused did not violate any visa rule and were implicated in the case.
“The court set aside charges under IPC sections 269 and 271, and also the violation under the Foreigners Act,” said Ahmed.
“The court, however, convicted them under IPC section 188 and under section 3 of the Epidemic Disease Act,” added Ahmed.
“I requested the administration that they can stay at my friend Sharafat Khan’s resort in Saharanpur until arrangements are made for their return. A team of district administration and police surveyed the resort before giving permission. The consent of Sharafat Khan was also taken by the administration. Locals are arranging food for the foreigners,” said Ahmed.
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