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In a counter filed by the MHA, it has been submitted that the investigation into the case lodged on March 31 is being conducted on a day-to-day basis and efforts are being made to complete the same in a time-bound manner
Asserting that a proper investigation is being conducted into the matter, the Central Government has told the Supreme Court that there is no need for a separate CBI probe into the events leading up to the Tablighi Jamaat convention in Nizamuddin, Delhi last March.
In this regard, the Central Government has submitted that police investigation in the case is being conducted on a day-to-day basis and efforts are being made to complete the same in a time-bound manner.
As such, the Court has been told that the plea for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the matter does not merit any consideration.
The submission was made in a counter affidavit filed on behalf of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs through under secretary Ram Vilas Premi in a petition by a Jammu-based lawyer Supriya Pandita.
In her plea, Pandita had questioned the role of the Centre, the Delhi government and the Delhi Police for risking the health of millions of citizens by allowing the huge congregation, which also comprised foreign delegates.
The MHA has now countered that there was no negligence or delay in dealing with the said issue by the Government authorities. In this regard, the counter affidavit states:
On March 21, the authorities of Markaz at Tablighi Jamat Headquarters were contacted by Delhi Police.
One, Mufti Shahzad was apprised of the threat of COVID-19 and asked to take immediate action for preventing the spread of this disease. He was directed to send the foreigners back to their respective countries and other Indian persons to their respective native places.
No one paid any heed to the lawful directions of the Delhi Police
An audio recording purportedly by one, 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 Markaz.
In view of the lockdown, prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to restrict social, political and religious gatherings were issued.
The menace and hazard of COVID-19 viral infection during large gatherings was verbally conveyed to Maulana Mohd. Saad and the management of Markaz on several occasions, including during meetings held in the police station.
A meeting in the police station called by the the SHO on March 24 was attended by members of Tablighi Jamat Markaz Management. However, Maulana Mohd. Saad and the Markaz Management did not inform any Health Department or other Government Agency about the huge gathering inside the Markaz.
Written notices were also issued to Maulana Mohd. Saad and the Markaz Management.
The MHA goes on to contend that the meeting organisers had deliberately, wilfully, negligently and malignantly disobeyed the lawful directions issued by the Government in allowing a huge gathering to assemble inside a closed premise over a protracted period of time without any semblance of social distancing or provision of masks and sanitisers.
Following the episode, the MHA counter further states that the following steps were taken by the Government authorities:
An FIR bearing no. 63/2020 was lodged on March 31. The investigation in the said case, by the Crime Branch of Delhi Police is already at an advanced state
On April 2, 960 foreigners were blacklisted by the Central Government for their involvement in the above Tablighi Jamaat activities
Directions have been issued by the Central Government to State authorities to take necessary legal action against those who have violated the law while taking part in the congregation on priority under relevant sections of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005
After investigation showed that some of the foreign participants had obtained Tourist visas or e visas on false pretexts, they were served notice under Section 41A of the CrPC. They have since given undertaking that they would not violate the conditions under the notice.
Efforts are being made by the Delhi Police to account for all passports of the visitors as well on finding that some were unable to provide the passport on request by the Government.
With respect to the pending FIR, the MHA further states that since the matter is still being investigated, the Centre is not divulging the investigation details in the present affidavit.
It adds, however, that if the Court calls for the same, a comprehensive status report on the investigation can be filed to demonstrate the seriousness with which the matter is being pursued.
The matter was adjourned on Friday for a period of two weeks.