On Monday, an Andheri magistrate court while acquitting 20 foreigners who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi and were booked for spreading coronavirus in Mumbai, said no legal evidence is furnished by the prosecution to support its charge.
The court also said, “During the imposition of lockdown their ultimate shelter in a mosque or nearby will not render them responsible for such contravention.”
Magistrate RR Khan said that noticeably the case of prosecution consists of only two witnesses. Both were police officers from DN Nagar police station where the FIR was registered against the Kyrgyz Republic and Indonesian nationals. From the combined perusal of evidence, he said it is evident that both have deposed that the accused have not committed violation of lockdown or curfew.
The court also observed that documentary evidence of the prosecution is considerable but orally the witnesses have not supported the case of the prosecution in the true sense.
The 20 foreigners represented by advocates Amin Solkar and AN Shaikh were tried in two separate but similar cases filed by the same police station. Though initially the police had registered offences under the IPC like negligent act likely to spread infection, lockdown and visa violations under various Acts, the police had added offences of attempt to murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder (both punishable up to life term) while filing the chargesheet. A sessions court had later dropped these serious charges against them.
A discharge plea they had filed before the magistrate court had come to be rejected, but the charge was framed only under a section of the Bombay Police Act pertaining to prohibited assembly. The court had found that other offences under the Epidemic Diseases Act, Foreigners Act, Disaster Management Act, etc are not made out.
Magistrate Khan said in his judgment acquitting them that the accused persons are foreigners and they are not acquainted with the local language as well as law of the state. Regarding the infringement of the order under the Bombay Police Act, he said that the order was neither publicly promulgated nor brought to their notice.
The court further observed that the versions of prosecution witnesses are contrary to documentary evidence on record and that the prosecution has not recorded evidence of any independent witness.
“None of the examined witnesses have occasion to see accused persons in the form of assembly…There is no iota of evidence with prosecution to show any contravention of order beyond all shadow of doubt,” it said,
The FIR had been registered on April 5 by the police against the foreigners for meeting various people, visiting mosques during the lockdown and spreading COVID-19 infection. The groups were staying in two different masjids in Andheri.