Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday quashed the FIRs filed against a total of 29 foreign nationals who were booked for allegedly violating their Tourist Visa conditions by attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin in Delhi.
A strongly worded judgement, by the division bench of Justice TV Nalawade and Justice MG Sewlikar of the Aurangabad bench of the high court, criticised as much the government as the media propaganda.
Holding that the state government acted under political compulsions, Justice TV Nalavade, said in the judgment authored by him: " A political Government tries to find the scapegoat when there is pandemic or calamity and the circumstances show that there is 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."
"The circumstances of the present matter create a question as to whether we are really acting as per our great tradition and culture. During the situation created by Covid 19 pandemic, we need to show more tolerance and we need to be more sensitive towards our guests particularly like the present petitioners. The allegations made show that instead of helping them we lodged them in jails by making allegations that they are responsible for violation of travel documents, they are responsible for spreading of virus etc."
The court also noted that the police action against the Tablighi Jamaat workers were indirectly warning to Indian Muslims who were protesting against National Registration of Citizenship (NRC).
"There were protests by taking processions, holding Dharna at many place in India from at least from prior to January 2020. Most of the persons participating in the protests were Muslims. It is their contention that the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is discriminatory against the Muslims,"
"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 any thing 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 circumstance like malice is important consideration when relief is claimed of quashing of FIR and the case itself."
As regards the violations of visa regulations which the Tablighi workers were accused of violating, the court after examining the relevant documents, said "The aforesaid material produced on the record shows that even under recent updated Manual of Visa, there is no restriction on foreigners for visiting religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourses. Ordinarily, a tourist is not expected to follow the procedure laid down in para No. 19.8 if he does not want to preach the religious ideologies etc."