The Tablighi Jamaat headquarters at Nizamuddin has turned out to be a COVID-19 hotspot, with several members learnt to have spread the virus across the country after participating in a religious congregation in the first half of March. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)
The Tablighi Jamaat leadership, which has been booked by Delhi Police for violating lockdown orders, could soon face another probe by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The central agency, which investigates offences of money laundering, is examining whether it can register a case against the outfit and its leadership over allegedly dubious financial dealings.
The Tablighi Jamaat headquarters at Nizamuddin has turned out to be a COVID-19 hotspot, with several members learnt to have spread the virus across the country after participating in a religious congregation in the first half of March.
"We are looking at the case registered by Delhi Police in the matter," an ED official told The Indian Express. "We will call for details in due course and examine whether it warrants a case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Delhi Police is probing their (Tablighi's) finances as part of its FIR, but we are better equipped to do it since Tablighi Jamaat gets funding from across the world."
An FIR filed by the SHO of Nizamuddin Police Station with Delhi Police's Crime Branch has named seven people, including Maulana Saad, associated with the management committee of Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid, the organisation's headquarters, for allegedly going ahead with a gathering of around 2,000 people at the mosque in Nizamuddin West despite warnings from agencies.
The event has been linked to a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country - nearly 30 per cent of all coronavirus cases in India are now being attributed last month's Tablighi congregation.
The FIR has invoked Sections of Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act and five Sections of the Indian Penal Code.
None of the special Acts invoked by Delhi Police, however, are part of the PMLA schedule. Barring Section 120B (Criminal Conspiracy), none of the IPC Sections invoked are also under PMLA schedule.
The ED cannot register a PMLA case unless there is a predicate offence registered by another agency under IPC Sections and scheduled offences mentioned in the PMLA charter.
"Do not forget that the Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled visas of over 900 Tablighis under the Foreigners Act and blacklisted them for violation of visa rules," another ED official said. "The Foreigners Act is part of PMLA schedule. Section 120B of IPC is also part of PMLA schedule. But we will first seek details from various agencies involved in the Tabligh probe and then decide the next course of action."
The Crime Branch has sent a detailed questionnaire to Tablighi Jamaat about the congregation, and steps taken to follow the government's directives on COVID-19. Through the questionnaire, the police have also sought details of income tax returns of Tablighi Jamaat for the last three years and asked for PAN, bank account details and bank statement for the past one year.
The ED is already probing finances behind the protests organised in Delhi and elsewhere against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the NRC and NPR. In a probe report sent to the Home Ministry earlier, it had blamed the Popular Front of India, among others, for financing the protests at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh.
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