Friday, April 3, 2020

‘With full weight of law’: MHA orders FIRs against 960 foreign Jamaat workers, sponsors

Covid-19: The Home Ministry communication was sent to states on Thursday evening after revoking visas of the 960 foreigners and blacklisting them from getting an Indian visa again. The Tablighi Jamaat’s gathering in March has been found to be responsible for hundreds of Covid-19 infections across India.
The Tablighi Jamaat’s gathering in March has been found to be responsible for hundreds of Covid-19 infections across India.(HT Photo)




Shishir Gupta


The Union Home Ministry has told Delhi Police Commissioner and state DGPs to start filing FIRs against the 960 Tablighi Jamaat’s foreign workers who endangered lives in the ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency.

The Home Ministry communication was sent to states on Thursday evening after revoking visas of the 960 foreigners and blacklisting them from getting an Indian visa again.

According to the home ministry, these foreigners had entered the country on the strength of tourist visas but engaged in Tablighi activities at its Nizamuddin headquarters that are feared to drive the outbreak despite an unprecedented lockdown.

The Tablighi Jamaat’s gathering in March has been found to be responsible for hundreds of Covid-19 infections across India. In Delhi, it has been linked to 60 per cent of Delhi’s 293 Covid-19 cases confirmed till Thursday evening.

Their activities, the letter noted, “have endangered many lives in the ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency” and violated India’s visa rules and the Foreigners Act.
“In view of the above, it is advised that legal action against all these foreigners and Indian nationals involved in the matter must be taken under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 as well as for violation of statutory orders issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and for offences committed under relevant sections of IPC (Indian Penal Code) as applicable in this matter,” the letter by the home ministry’s Pratap Singh Rawat said.

A senior Home Ministry official told HT that the decision to file FIRs reflected the determination of the government to come down on the Jamaat “with the full weight of law” to penalise them for their callous approach.

“The government took unprecedented decisions, shut down industries, offices, grounded planes and trains. But this group’s actions have threatened to jeopardise the entire lockdown,” the official said.

He clarified that the government did not intend to file cases against ordinary Tablighi workers if they stayed on the right side of the law.

The idea, he explained, was to proceed against Tablighi functionaries who facilitated the visas and stay of the foreign nationals. He declined to elaborate.

But a senior police officer interpreted this to imply the leadership of the Tablighi Jamaat. The Delhi Police has already registered one case against the Tablighi leadership after a large number of coronavirus cases were detected at the Markaz and evacuated.

This advice to register criminal cases would not apply to another 360 Tablighi Jamaat’s workers have already left the country. But they will be blacklisted from entering the country again.

A home ministry official explained the police could invoke Section 269 and 270 of the penal code that prescribes upto six months imprisonment for negligence likely to spread infection of a dangerous disease and two years jail for a malignant act that spreads a dangerous disease.

Besides, the home ministry letter said the foreign nationals were also liable to face action under the Foreigners Act and Disaster Management Act.--ht



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