OVER A month after the Bandra police dropped charges of attempt to murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder against 12 Indonesian nationals, part of the Tablighi Jamaat, a court on Tuesday discharged them of all other charges.
After the Bandra police filed a chargesheet against them last month on other charges related to allegations of violation of the lockdown, visa conditions and other relevant sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act, the group, through their lawyer Ishrat Khan, had filed a discharge application before the metropolitan magistrate’s court.
The plea stated the 12 Indonesian nationals had come to India on February 29 and attended the congregation of the jamaat at Nizamuddin in Delhi. They reached Mumbai on March 7. At the time, all those who had assembled at the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in Delhi’s Nizamuddin were tested when they reached the other places across the country. Some of them tested positive for Covid-19. Likewise, when the 12 members arrived in Mumbai, they were also sent to a quarantine centre in Mumbai and tested for the virus. While 10 tested negative, two others were found positive for the virus.
An FIR was filed by the Bandra police against them, including on charges of IPC sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), which have a maximum punishment of 10 years, claiming the men were responsible for spreading Covid-19 in the city and causing deaths. The group was arrested and sent to jail before being granted bail after over a week.
In its chargesheet, however, these two sections were dropped with the police stating that there was not sufficient evidence for the charge. Khan had submitted in the discharge application that there was no iota of evidence against them to show that they violated government orders or were responsible for the spread of the disease.
“The present applicants were sought to be implicated only on the ground that they are foreigners and were present during the announcement of lockdown due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic,” the discharge plea had said. Their lawyer had also relied on other similar orders in the state where the courts have discharged foreign nationals, part of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, including the order of the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court which said that they were made “scapegoats” and jailed instead of being treated sensitively during the pandemic.
The group, which is staying in Mumbai, will now be allowed to leave the country after completing relevant procedures.