Tablighi Jamat event organisers deliberately ignored directions of authorities, Centre to SC; rejects CBI probe plea

New Delhi, Jun 5 (PTI) The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court the Tablighi Jamaat event organisers at the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi in March “deliberately and wilfully” ignored directions by authorities over the risk of spread of COVID-19, and also rejected a plea for a CBI probe.

The Centre also alleged that on the contrary, an audio recording purportedly by Maulana Mohd. Saad, head of the Tablighi Jamaat, was found to be in circulation on social media platforms in which the speaker was allegedly heard asking his followers to defy the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing and to attend the religious gathering of the Markaz.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) made the submissions in an affidavit while giving in detail the steps taken by the Delhi Police, saying it is making all efforts to complete the investigation within the time frame to submit the charge sheet in the trial court. The Tablighi event had emerged as the hotspot for the coronavirus cases in the country.

It also said the probe into assembly of thousands of people at Anand Vihar Bus Terminal in east Delhi during the migrants crisis besides the Tablighi Jamaat event in Nizamuddin Markaz is being conducted on a day-to-day basis by the Delhi police and there was no need for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI).

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy directed the Delhi government and Delhi Transport Corporation(DTC) to file their reply and allowed the petitioner Supriya Pandita to file rejoinder affidavits and listed the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

Pandita in her plea had among other things sought a CBI probe into the matter relating to the assembly of people at Anand Vihar Bus Terminal and at the Markaz in Nizamuddin after the nationwide lockdown was announced, alleging the Delhi police has failed to control the people and that Maulana Saad was still evading arrest.

On the sequence of events, the MHA said Maulana Saad and others had allowed a huge gathering to assemble inside closed premises over a protracted period of time, without any semblance of social distance or provision of masks and sanitizers, and have caused a situation where a highly infectious disease such as COVID-19 may spread and threaten the lives of inmates.

It said that inspection of the Markaz was conducted by the SDM on various dates between March 26 and March 30 and during such exercise, around 1,300 persons from various states as well as foreign countries were found residing in the premises without maintaining any social distance with each other.

“It is submitted that Maulana Mohd. Saad, others and the management of Markaz had deliberately, wilfully, negligently committed acts which were in direct contravention and to the lawful directions of the government and public servants…”, the affidavit alleged.

It added that a case was lodged against Maulana Saad under various provisions including The Epidemic Disease Act, Disaster Management Act and sections of IPC with crime branch police station and during the investigation of the case charges under Foreigners Act was also added.

“In so far as the issue of assembly of people at Markaz in Nizamuddin is concerned, I respectfully state and submit that an FIR bearing FIR no. 63/2020 dated March 31, in this has already been lodged and the investigation in the said case, by the crime branch of Delhi police is already at an advanced state,” the affidavit filed by Ran Vilas Premi, under-secretary of MHA, said.

The Ministry pointed out that there was no negligence or delay in dealing with the issue of Markaz incident and police had on March 21 contacted the authorities of Tablighi Jamaat Headquarters and apprised them of the COVID-19 situation and was directed to send the foreigners back to their respective countries and Indians to their native places.

“However, no one paid any heed to the lawful directions of Delhi police and to the contrary, an audio recording purportedly by Maulana Mohd. Saad head of the Tablighi Jamaat, was found to be in circulation on social media platforms in which the speaker was heard asking his followers to defy the lockdown and social distancing and to attend the religious gathering of the Markaz”, it alleged.

The MHA said that hundreds of foreigners have already joined the investigation in this case and the probe has revealed that most of them had arrived on a tourist visa or e-visa obtained on false pretext and 960 such foreigners had been blacklisted on April 2 for their involvement in Tablighi Jamaat activities.

On the steps taken by the Delhi police, the MHA in its affidavit said that the probe into Markaz matter is being conducted on a day-to-day basis, in accordance with the mandate of law and all efforts are being made to finalize investigations and submit a report under section 173 CrPC (charge sheet) before the trial court in a time bound manner.

“In view of the facts and circumstances it is respectfully submitted that prayer D (direction for CBI probe) of the writ petition does not merits any consideration by this court,” the reply affidavit said, adding the plea needs to be disposed of.

The MHA said that despite substantial financial package announced by the Centre, the distressed members of society, some of the migrant workers due to anxiety, instigation and other psychological reasons started a journey to their home on foot.

It also told the top court that due to fake media reports and circulation of certain misinformation in the areas of Delhi, thousands of migrants gathered at Anand Vihar Bus terminal and Ghazipur border area on March 28.

Regarding the huge gathering of migrant workers at the Terminal, the government said it happened due to fake media reports that 1,000 buses for travel of stranded migrants to their home state would be available.

The Centre said necessary action had been taken to counter the rumours and also steps taken to ensure there is no repetition of similar incidents. FIRs were also lodged against erring bus drivers for transporting the migrant workers towards Anand Vihar, it added. PTI MNL ABA SJK RKS GSN GSN GSN