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A slew of suggestions has been made by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Anup J Bhambhani in petitions seeking directions to expedite trial against 121 Malaysians, 11 Saudi nationals.
Cases, where foreign accused are pleading guilty or entering plea bargains, may be disposed of first, the Delhi High Court has suggested with respect to the criminal cases concerning the outbreak of COVID-19 amongst the foreign participants of the Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin Markaz. (Fahrul Naim Bin Mohd Noor vs UOI & Ors)
The suggestion was recorded by a Single judge Bench of Justice Anup J Bhambhani in petitions seeking directions to expedite trial against 121 Malaysians and 11 Saudi nationals.
Contending that even foreign nationals were entitled to a speedy trial under Article 21 of the Constitution, two petitions were moved before the High Court to expedite the trial.
The Petitioners had essentially prayed for directions to constitute a designated court to try and adjudicate upon the chargesheets in the matter and classify the cases as "urgent" for the purpose of consideration on account of the COVID-19.
In response to the petitions, the Investigating Officer from Delhi Police informed the Court that 48 chargesheets and 11 supplementary chargesheets have been filed against a total of 956 foreign nationals from 36 countries.
It was submitted that as of now the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, South-East, Saket Courts, New Delhi was dealing with all the cases and the course of the criminal trial depended upon various factors including some or all accused persons pleading guilty or entering plea-bargain.
If the need so arises, a request may be made to the District & Sessions Judge (South), Saket Courts to mark the matters in batches to different Metropolitan Magistrates for expeditious disposal of the same, at the appropriate stage, Prosecution added.
The Central Government submitted that if and once the criminal proceedings initiated against the foreign nationals in question were concluded before the competent court, it would have no objection to anyone exiting the country.
Based on the submissions made, including the Petitioners' apprehension that early closure of the cases, if left unguided, would take a long time, the Court deemed it appropriate to make certain suggestions at this stage.
These suggestions are as follows:
- CMM may firstly, post all 48 charge sheets and 11 supplementary chargesheets for a case management hearing and divide cases into batches and sub-batches according to the nationality of the accused persons and/ or offences alleged or on some other rational and useful basis.
- Secondly, after cognizance is taken,cases may be segregated - may segregate matters on the basis of whether the accused has pleaded guilty or entered plea-bargain or wants to undergo trial.
- Thirdly, cases where accused are pleading guilty or entering plea-bargains, may be disposed of first.
- Fourthly, for each of these stages, the CMM may designate a specific date and time when exclusively these mattes would be taken-up, which could even be a non-working day, so that adequate time and resources could be devoted to facilitate expeditious disposal.
- Lastly, the Embassy/High Commission concerned may be requested to arrange for the appearance of the accused persons via video-conferencing and also for identifying the accused persons as per official records/documents.
Counsel appearing for Delhi Government and Delhi Police, as well as the Petitioners, assured the Court that all assistance and cooperation shall be rendered to the CMM for the above purpose.
The petitions are kept pending in case any further directions or guidance is required to bring these matters to a conclusion at the earliest possible.
The matter would be heard next on July 22.
Advocate S Hari Haran appeared for Malaysian nationals. Advocate Ajay Garg represented Saudi nationals.
Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra with Advocate Chaitanya Gosain appeared for Prosecution.
ASG Chetan Sharma with Standing Counsel Amit Mahajan and Advocate Dhruv Pande appears for Centre.
Read the Order: