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The Delhi Government today stated before the Delhi High Court that the foreign nationals who attended the Nizamuddin Markaz were not "under any type of custody" and that the Government was only "looking after them".
The Delhi Police also stated that nobody from the Markaz congregation has been arrested or detained in the connection with the FIR registered after the COVID-19 outbreak.
The averments were made in the status report submitted to a Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar in a habeas corpus petition preferred by 20 such foreign nationals in institutional quarantine.
The Petitioners and other foreign nationals in question participated in the Tablighi Jamaat held at the Nizamuddin Markaz in March 2020.
After the emergence of COVID-19 among the participants of the Jamaat, an FIR was registered against the organisers of the event, all the attendees, visitors, organizers etc.
Meanwhile, all the members of the Markaz congregation, Indians and foreigners alike, were sent to institutional quarantine centres, the Petitioner has informed.
It is the Petitioners' grievance that on May 9, while the Indian Nationals were released after they tested negative, foreign nationals were still directed to be in their centres, despite their COVID-19 test being negative.
Moreover, more than 560 of these foreign nationals were directed by the Delhi Government to be sent to the custody of Delhi Police in connection with the FIR, it is claimed.
The Petitioners have thus sought a direction to end the "illegal detention" of 916 foreign nationals on the ground of it being in violation of Articles 14, 21 & 22 of the Constitution of India.
In its status report, the Delhi Police has stated that nobody from the Markaz congregation has been arrested or detained in the connection with the FIR so far.
It is contended that more than 900 foreign Tablighi Jamaat attendees, including the petitioners, only joined the investigation of the case after they were served notices under section 41A CrPC.
The Delhi Police has, however, claimed that apart from being liable for violation of Executive orders in terms of Section 188 IPC, the foreign nationals who entered India on Tourist Visa, as opposed to a Missionary Visa, and then participated in the Tablighi Jamaat are also in violation of Section 14 (b) Foreigners Act and Sections 308/304 IPC.
It is explained that a foreigner on Tourist Visa can only engage in recreation, sight-seeing, casual meeting with friends or relatives, attending short-term yoga programmes, short duration medical treatment etc and no other activity.
Delhi Police has added that the investigation in the FIR was being conducted on a day-to-day basis and efforts were being made to finalize the investigation and submit a report under Section 173 CrPC.
The Delhi Government has maintained that the foreign nationals from Nizamuddin Markaz were not "under any type of custody".
"These foreign nationals shall be released/handed over to government agencies if MHA provides any directions or Delhi Police wishes to take their custody.", the status report reads.
While clarifying that it has no objections with release or otherwise of the foreign nationals, the Delhi Government has said that it would abide by the orders passed by the Court.
After issuing notice and considering the submissions made by the parties, the Court allowed the counsel for the Petitioners to find alternate accommodation for the foreign nationals. The Authorties shall inspect the suggested premises tomorrow and then file a status report before the Court.
The matter would be heard next on May 28.
The petitioners were represented by Senior Advocate Rebecca John and Advocate Ashima Mandla.
Read the status report: