Central Govt Took Action Against Tablighi Jamaat As Warning to Indian Muslims For Protest Against CAA, NRC: Bombay High Court

Tablighi Jamaat

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Pune, August 23, 2020: The Aurangabad-bench of the Bombay High Court has passed severe strictures against the government while quashing FIRs against 29 Tablighi Jamaat members, both Indians and foreigners, who had attended the event in Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz in early March. The HC ruled that there was no proof to show they had violated visa conditions and propagated Islam, or were responsible for the spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID19) in the country.

A Division Bench of Justices TV Nalawade and MG Sewlikar was hearing a petition concerning cases against foreign and Indian nationals booked under The Epidemic Act, The Disaster Management Act and The Foreigners Act for attending the Markaz event. The court also quashed FIRs filed against seven Indian nationals.

The court observed that there is no restriction on foreigners visiting religious places and being part of usual religious activities like attending religious discourses. The foreigners from various countries including Iran, Ivory Coast and Indonesia, said they had come to India on valid visas issued by the Indian government. “They had come to experience Indian culture, tradition, hospitality and Indian food. They said they were screened at the airport in accordance with the procedure. They also said they had informed local authorities about their stay and were only here to observe religious practices of Islam and not to propagate the religion”, the court observed.

In a sub-title “Background of Malice”, the court said, “The question arises as to what must have tempted the authority to issue such directions against the foreigners like the petitioners. The record of this matter and the submissions made show that action of Central Government was taken mainly against Muslim persons who had come to Markaz Delhi for Tabligh Jamaat. Similar action was not taken against other foreigners belonging to other religions. Due to these circumstances, the background of the action and what is achieved needs to be considered by the Court.”

In the order dated August 21, the court further stated, “There was big propaganda in print media and electronic media against the foreigners who had come to Markaz Delhi and an attempt was made to create a picture that these foreigners were responsible for spreading the COVID-19 virus in India. There was virtually persecution against these foreigners. A political Government tries to find the scapegoat when there is pandemic or calamity and the circumstances show that there is a probability that these foreigners were chosen to make them scapegoats. The aforesaid circumstances and the latest figures of infection in India show that such action against present petitioners should not have been taken. It is now high time for the concerned to repent about this action taken against the foreigners and to take some positive steps to repair the damage done by such action.

There were protests by taking processions, holding Dharna at many places in India from atleast from prior to January 2020. Most of the persons who participated in the protest were Muslims. It is their contention that the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is discriminatory against the Muslims. They believe that Indian citizenship will not be granted to Muslim refugees and migrants. They were protesting against National Registration of Citizenship (NRC). There were protests on a large scale not only in Delhi but in most of the States in India. It can be said that due to the present action taken fear was created in the minds of those Muslims. This action indirectly gave warning to Indian Muslims that action in any form and for anything can be taken against Muslims. It was indicated that even for keeping contact with Muslims of other countries, action will be taken against them. Thus, there is smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and Muslim for their alleged activities. The circumstances like malice is an important consideration when relief is claimed of quashing of FIR and the case itself.”

Maharashtra government acted under political compulsion
The order further stated, “Maharashtra police acted mechanically. It appears that the State Government acted under political compulsion and police also did not dare to exercise powers given to them under provisions of procedural law like Cr.P.C. and substantive laws. The record shows that there was non-application of mind by police and that is why even when no record was available to make out prima facie case, chargsheets are fled by police. The Government cannot give different treatment to citizens of different religions of different countries. This Court is holding that the police action is based on such instructions probably of the executive and apparently there is discrimination as mentioned above. On this ground also, the malice is inferable and the cases need to be quashed.”

Propaganda against religious activity was unwarranted

“The material of the present matter shows that the propaganda against the so called religious activity was  unwarranted. The record and the submissions show that the activity was going on for more than 50 years. This can be found in the information about Tabligh activity supplied by the Central Government on 31.3.2020. This information also shows that such activity is there throughout the year. Thus, this activity was not started only after arrival of the foreigners like the petitioners. In these days, there are more alternate media for such discourse. Islamic television networks are thematic channels, that have developed across the world in response to various Muslim audiences, preferences”, the order further stated.