In a complete reversal of their earlier stand in April, Bandra Police said in their chargesheet filed on Tuesday that there was no evidence of even a single infection having been caused by the 12 Indonesians who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi. The police had earlier claimed that 504 persons had contracted Covid-19 and 35 had died after coming in contact with these Indonesians housed in various mosques in Mumbai.
On the basis of this earlier claim, the Bandra Police had added non-bailable offences of IPC Sec 304(2) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and Sec 307 (attempt to murder) against the foreigners. In their most recent chargesheet, however, they informed the Bandra magistrate court that they would be dropping these two charges, as they had found no evidence to substantiate them.
During investigation, the police said they found no evidence that any person who had come in contact with the 12 persons staying at various masjids in Mumbai had contracted Covid-19 or died of it subsequently.
Advocate Irshat Khan, who appeared for the 12 Indonesians, said the offences which were added at a later stage made it difficult for the accused to secure bail. “The matter could have been handled by the magistrate court, but when the police added these sections, which are punishable by over seven years in prison, it had to go to the sessions court. The magistrate had no power to give bail,” said Khan. He said the other sections had been added only to create hurdles in securing bail.
Initially, a sub-inspector of the Bandra police station had filed the FIR against the foreigners under sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act, the Maharashtra Covid-19 Implementation Act, the Foreigners Act and provisions of the IPC relating to negligent act likely to spread infection, among other sections, all of which were bailable minor offences punishable by up to two years' imprisonment.
Khan said the offences were added during the remand stage when the matter was before the magistrate court. Due to the addition of these offences, the accused were forced to spend around a month in prison till they approached the sessions court, which granted them bail in early May.
The offence of attempt to murder that was added and has now been dropped, is punishable by ten years in prison or even life imprisonment. While two of the 12 Indonesians who had tested positive for coronavirus had been treated and had recovered, 10 others had been quarantined and had tested negative.