A WEEK after rejecting the discharge applications of 20 foreign nationals, part of the Tablighi Jamaat, a metropolitan magistrate’s court on Wednesday dropped all charges against them, retaining only one in which the maximum punishment can extend up to Rs 2,500 in fine.
Last week, metropolitan magistrate R R Khan had rejected the discharge applications of 10 Indonesian and as many Kyrgyzstan nationals observing that while there was no legal evidence against them for spreading Covid-19, they were found in a mosque when the lockdown was in place.
Their lawyer, Amin Solkar, had submitted that they were not assembling at a mosque but were residing there since they could not return to their countries due to the lockdown. The court, however, had said there was documentary evidence, including FIR and arrest form, against the accused.
On Wednesday, however, the magistrate court said no case was made to try the foreign nationals under sections of the Foreigners Act for alleged visa rules violations, Epidemic Disease Act or two sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to spreading of infectious diseases.
The court said that a case is made only under the Bombay Police Act against them regarding disobedience of an order. The maximum punishment under section 37 (3) of the Act, is a fine which can extend up to Rs 2,500.
The 20 foreign nationals were explained the charge by the court and all of them said they do not plead guilty to it. The court then framed the charge against them. The accused also filed a plea seeking to expedite the trial, on which the court has sought the police’s say.
The DN Nagar Police had in March filed two FIRs claiming the two groups, members of which came to the country in February and reached Mumbai in March as part of the Tablighi Jamaat, had violated visa rules and were responsible for the spread of the coronavirus disease.
They were also booked under charges of attempt to murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. A chargesheet was filed under these sections but the police later submitted before the court that there was no evidence to charge them on these sections.
After their discharge plea was rejected last week, a criminal appeal was filed by the accused before the Dindoshi sessions court this week, which is pending.
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