‘What is the offence committed?’: Delhi HC asks police on those who provided shelter to Tablighis

The court said that when the lockdown was imposed, the people were in the mosque and nobody could go anywhere.

The Delhi High Court Friday questioned the Delhi Police for registering FIRs against Indian nationals who had provided accommodation in their homes or mosques to attendees of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Markaz Nizamuddin during the lockdown last year, asking whether there was any notification to throw people out instead.

“Suddenly a lockdown is imposed, where does one go? On the street? He will remain where he is. What is the offence committed? Is there any bar on residents of Madhya Pradesh to come and stay in Delhi or stay in any temple, masjid, gurdwara,” said Justice Mukta Gupta, while hearing the petitions seeking quashing of FIRs against Delhi residents who are accused of allowing the attendees – mostly foreign nationals – to live in mosques or their houses.

The court said that when the lockdown was imposed, the people were in the mosque and nobody could go anywhere. “There was no means available. Then what is the offence? What is the violation? Or was there any notification that everybody will throw out whosoever is staying somewhere,” it added.

The counsel representing Delhi Police told the court that the Investigating Officer of the cases has recently changed and sought time to file a detailed status report. The court, while listing the case for hearing on December 6, said one more opportunity is granted to file the status report within one week. It also asked police to verify whether there are residential places or rooms within the mosques.

“Wherever anybody was residing, person need(ed) to continue. A person could not even shift if they were with their grandparents, parents… nobody could go out of the house. Wherever you were, you were just suddenly static. So, there was no question of changing the place at that time,” said Justice Gupta further.

“When the lockdown was imposed, there was no bar on anybody residing over there,” continued the court.

Ashima Mandla, representing the accused, told the court that the police in the chargesheet have placed two prohibitory orders of March 24 and March 30 but in the status report they are referring to a prohibitory order of March 11. “A bare perusal of those prohibitory orders… It only bars a religious congregation and in the FIRs itself, the allegation is that I am simply residing. At no point in FIR, they say that a religious congregation is being held despite lockdown,” she submitted.

Mandla further submitted that police shoved and packed people like sardines in quarantine centres. “Out of these FIRs, there are three FIRs which are peculiar because those are the FIRs where private persons have been made accused over here for just giving refuge in their own houses. It is not even the case of a Masjid,” she contended, adding that women are not allowed to stay inside the Markaz and they stay in private houses.

At least 48 people are accused in at least a dozen FIRs, which are under challenge before the High Court. Delhi Police in a written reply has told the court that Indian nationals “deliberately allowed” foreign nationals to live in the mosques or reside in their houses in violation of the notifications which were under operation in March last year.

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