Twenty foreign nationals, part of the Tablighi Jamaat, were acquitted by a metropolitan magistrate’s court on Monday for lack of evidence in support of the allegations against them.
With this, all cases against foreign nationals linked to the Jamaat in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region have ended, either in acquittals or discharge, being cleared of all charges. They were cleared of the charge of disobeying order for alleged violation of lockdown norms with the court observing there were no independent witnesses nor legal evidence by the prosecution to prove the charge.
“The brief survey of the prosecution evidence transpires that none of the examined witnesses have an occasion to see the accused persons together in the form of assembly…The prosecution witnesses admitted that they have not seen accused persons contravening any directions or order issued by the authority. The witnesses were also not found in position to tell where and how the accused person were residing at the time of the alleged offence,” the metropolitan magistrate said.
The two groups of 10 Indonesian and 10 Kyrgyz nationals were booked in April by the DN Nagar police station in Andheri in two separate cases. They were charged under sections including attempt to murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder, violation of visa rules and lockdown. The police claimed that the groups had come to Mumbai after attending a congregation at the Nizamuddin centre in Delhi of the Jamaat in February and had violated various norms.
The police had also claimed they were responsible for spreading Covid-19 in the city and causing deaths. In August, however, the police dropped the two charges with the maximum punishment, of attempt to murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder by saying that there was no evidence to show they had caused deaths by spreading the virus.
The court had on October 1 refused to discharge the 20 accused of other remaining charges stating that while there was no legal evidence against them for spreading the virus, they would continue to face trial for staying in a mosque during the lockdown. On October 7, the court then dropped all charges against them retaining only one under the Bombay Police Act pertaining to disobedience of an order for violation of lockdown norms. The 20 did not plead guilty to the violations following which the court began the criminal trial against them. They, through their lawyer Amin Solkar, submitted that they had informed the local authorities about their stay in Mumbai and had assembled in a mosque as a place of residence since they could not return to their countries due to restrictions on travel. “During imposition of the lockdown and their ultimate shelter in a mosque or nearby will not render them responsible for such contravention,” the court said.
The foreign nationals will now be allowed to return to their countries after completing formalities.
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