Justice Mukund G Sewlikar, one of the two judges of the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court that last week quashed FIRs filed against 29 foreign nationals and six Indians in connection with a Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi amid Covid-19 restrictions at the end of March, on Thursday disagreed with the observations made by the senior judge on the bench, who said that action against the foreign nationals was an “indirect warning to Indian Muslims” after the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
A division bench of Justice Tanaji V Nalawade and Justice Mukund G Sewlikar had on August 21 passed judgment on three petitions filed by the 29 foreigners, charged with violating their visa terms and Epidemic Act guidelines, and the six Indians accused of granting them shelter in Ahmednagar.
“A political government tries to find a scapegoat when there is a pandemic or calamity and the circumstances show that there is a probability that these foreigners were chosen to make them a scapegoat,” the court had said.
Justice Sewlikar had then said that while he agreed with the part of the order quashing the FIRs, he had differing views on a few observations made by Justice Nalawade. Justice Sewlikar on Thursday passed a separate order mentioning his reasons.
Maintaining that he agreed with all observations made by Justice Nalawade except the one pertaining to CAA protests, Justice Sewlikar said that since none of the offences could be proved by the prosecution, the chargesheets against the petitioners deserved to be quashed.
He referred to Justice Nalawade’s observations in the 58-paged judgment, which stated, “There were protests… at many places in India from at least prior to January 2020. Most of the persons (who) participated in the protests were Muslims. It is their contention that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, is discriminatory against Muslims… They were protesting against the National Register of Citizens.”
He added, “It can be said that due to the action taken, fear was created in the minds of those Muslims. This action indirectly gave warning to Indian Muslims that action in any form and for anything can be taken against Muslims. It was indicated that even for keeping contact with Muslims of other countries, action will be taken against them. Thus, there is smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and Muslim for their alleged activities. The circumstance like malice is an important consideration when relief is claimed of quashing of FIR and the case itself.”
In light of these observations, Justice Sewlikar noted in his August 27 order, “I find it difficult to concur with these observations as allegations in this respect are (neither) made in the petitions nor there is any evidence in this regard. Therefore, in my opinion these observations are outside the scope of the petitions.”
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