Patna, December 24: The Patna high court has quashed the criminal prosecution against 18 foreign nationals associated with the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi in March amid the beginning of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In its decision on Tuesday, the court cited absence of any material that could prima facie suggest that these people were involved in religious work, the Hindustan Times reported.

The order came on a petition filed by 11 foreign nationals who came to West Bengal from Bangladesh by road on tourist visa. The petitioners said that they visited the ‘Nizamuddin Markaz’ in Delhi before the Tablighi event, reached Araria in Bihar on March 11 and were residing in ‘Rawahi markaz’ since March 15. Then, a nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24 for 21 days, leaving them stranded, the petitioners said.

Further, the local administration put them in quarantine post screening. Later, a local claimed that these foreigners were involved in the spread of religious ideologies, and did not report their stay to the local administration which led to the registering of an FIR, the court was told.

The bench of Justice Rajeev Ranjan Prasad in its observation said that the government of India is aware of the fact that the foreign nationals from some of the countries in the course of their stay in India are accommodated in mosques or markaz.

The court further said that the allegations in this case of not reporting their stay to the local police station is “misconceived”.

The court concluded by saying, “so far as the foreign nationals (petitioner nos. 1 to 9 of Cr.W.J.C. No. 367 of 2020 and petitioner nos. 2 to 10 of Cr.W.J.C. No. 369 of 20200) are concerned, their prosecution for the offences alleged under Section 14 and 14-C of the Act of 1946 has no basis to proceed.”

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