On 16 December the Saket Court in Delhi acquitted 36 foreigners who were put on trial for allegedly flouting the COVID-19 protocols in Nizamuddin in March this year.
The accused had raised a plea that none of them had been present at Markaz during the relevant period, and that they had been picked up from different places so as to maliciously prosecute them. The court had found this plea ‘reasonably probable.’
The court had also found that the prosecution was unable to provide legitimate evidence to prove the presence of those accused on the dates mentioned against their names, or even that they had been staying at Markaz till the 31st or 30th of March.
The Court, in its order said,
“The prosecution has failed to lead any evidence of promulgation of the order u/s 144 Cr.P.C. by ACP, Lajpat Nagar in the sense that not even an iota of evidence about publication thereof so as to bring the same to the notice of persons staying in Markaz has been brought on record.”
Those accused came from various countries, including the US, Russia, UK, France, Indonesia, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, and so on.
Tablighi Jamaat: Another Reason For Violence
The Tablighi Jamaat was made to bear the brunt of India’s frustration over the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Tablighi Jamaat is an collection of thousands of Islamic groups that serves the purpose of helping Islamic worshippers further strengthen their faith. Thousands of worshippers had gathered at Markaz near Nizamuddin in Delhi, which is also the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat in India. They had gained public attention in March when many attendees began to test positive for COVID-19.
The incident caused many to point accusatory fingers at all Muslims who had attended the event, citing them as the cause for the spread of the virus in the country. Many commoners and shop and street vendors had been thrashed by goons citing the excuse that they were spreading the virus.
Indian media- especially TV channels had also played a huge role in this demonisation.
When on November 17 the Jamiat-Ulama-I-Hind and other groups filed a petition against media houses citing biased reporting, the Ministry of Information and Broadcast submitted a petition in response saying that the reporting had been “balanced and neutral.”
The Supreme court was not in favour of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s justification and way it supported those who communalised the issue. The bench headed by Cheif Justice of India S.A. Bobde was disappointed with the affidavit and had prompted the Centre to offer to file a fresh affidavit for the case.