Bombay HC quashes FIR against Tablighis

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Thursday suppressed the FIR and the chargesheet filed against Myanmar nationals booked for Tablighi activities and stated, “Compelling the applicants to undergo the trial would cause grave injustice.”

On September 21, a division bench of judges V.M. Deshpande and Amit B. Borkar was hearing a plea filed by eight nationals. They arrived on March 22 and from March 24 till March 31 they were sent to institutional isolation in spite of testing negative for COVID 19. On April 5, they were arrested under the Foreigners Act, Epidemic Diseases Act, and Disaster Management Act for suppressing the FIR and chargesheet. They were additionally arrested under sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code.

The State government contended that after the travelers showed up in India they began lecturing activities and partook in religious exercises disregarding the conditions of the visa manual. On July 21, a chargesheet was filed dependent on statements of witnesses and other proof gathered by researching organizations asserting that there is abundant material on record to arraign the candidates.

The lawyer showing up for the applicants said every one of them are not familiar with the regional dialect; they had studied the Quaran and Hadis in their language. There is no material created by the arraignment to prove that they were engrossed with tabligh work and they were engaged with lecturing strict philosophy or making discourses in religious places. There is no material created by the indictment in the chargesheet, which even at prima facie shows breach of the visa manual.

The court stated, “We are of the opinion that the investigating authorities acted without jurisdiction in registering the FIR under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) based on a complaint by the police. The investigation conducted by the police was also without jurisdiction.”

The 20 page request read, “We are of the opinion that allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the court in as much as there was an express legal bar against the institution of FIR against the accused based on the police report. Compelling the applicants to undergo the trial would cause injustice.”

While quashing the FIR and chargesheet, the court noted, “There is no material on record to prove that applicants had indulged in any act which was likely to spread infection of COVID-19. Therefore, from the material produced in the chargesheet, there is no evidence to substantiate the fulfilment of ingredients of Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code.”