New Delhi, August 11: The Delhi High Court on Monday ordered transferring a batch of cases pending against various foreign nationals, who attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi and allegedly indulged in missionary activities in violation of visa norms and breached anti-Covid-19 guidelines, to Saket district court for being decided expeditiously.

Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani directed that the charge sheets arising out of different FIRs mentioned in eight petitions be transferred from different trial courts in Delhi to the court of chief metropolitan magistrate, South-East Delhi, Saket district court here and said the matters be disposed of expeditiously in accordance with the law, news agency PTI reported.

The high court, which was hearing the matters through video conferencing, passed the order after the counsel for the foreigners urged it to issue directions similar to that issued by the Supreme Court on August 6.

The high court passed the direction while allowing the plea by senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for the foreign nationals, to withdraw the petitions seeking quashing of separate FIRs lodged against them.

Regarding three petitions concerning the cases where the magistrate refused to take cognisance of the alleged offences mentioned in the charge sheets, the high court was informed that the petitioners have not been summoned by the trial court and nothing survives in the matter if the state does not challenge the magistrate’s order.

Delhi government standing counsel (Criminal) Rahul Mehra sought time to seek instructions on this aspect.

Meanwhile, central government standing counsel Ajay Digpaul, Anil Soni and Anurag Ahluwalia submitted that since Look Out Circulars (LoC) were opened by the Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs, at the request of prosecuting agency Delhi Police, once the criminal cases are closed and request is received to close the LOC, the Union of India will have no problem in doing this and in facilitating the petitioners exiting the country.

According to the separate petitions, the foreigners said they have already admitted their guilt in the FIR lodged by the Crime Branch of Delhi Police in the matter and pleaded for lenient punishments under the provisions of plea bargaining. They were allowed to walk free on payment of varying fines and pleading guilty for minor offences related to the Covid-19 lockdown violations, the counsel for the foreigners said, adding that their deportation orders were also issued.

However, they are not able to fly back to their countries due to the pendency of other FIRs lodged at various police stations here, the counsel said.

When the petitioners wanted to go back to their countries, it transpired that a second FIR is also pending against each of them and the charge sheets have been filed before the trial court, she said.

These petitioners are nationals of various countries including Australia, South Africa, Indonesia and Sri Lanka and are arrayed as accused in the charge sheets filed by the police.

Their counsel has contended that the police cannot lodge separate FIRs for the same alleged offence and they are unable to go back due to look out circulars (LOCs) being opened against them.

She said while the first FIR was lodged on March 31, this second FIR by the police was filed later on and added that the foreigners were not informed of these additional FIRs before the Saket court where they pleaded guilty.

The petitioners had sought quashing of two FIRs registered at various police stations under various sections of IPC and the Epidemic Diseases Act. They have also sought directions to the respondents to close the LoC issued qua foreign national petitioners.

In the case being probed by the crime branch, the foreign national petitioners have duly entered plea bargaining and consequent deportation orders have been issued by the court. They said that the allegations in the FIRs before this court are similar to the FIR of crime branch, in which 911 of the 955 foreigner Jamaatis have entered into plea bargaining.

“Under the law, second FIR is impermissible and there is an operational bar from prosecution of same offences arising out of the corresponding cause of action under Article 20(2) of the constitution of India( widely known as doctrine of double jeopardy) as well as section 300 of the CrPC,” the pleas said.

In April, Covid-19 cases across the country spiked after hundreds of many Tablighi Jamaat members, who had attended the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz in the national capital, tested positive. At least 9,000 people, including the foreign nationals participated in the religious congregation in Nizamuddin. Later, many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.

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