In a scathing rebuke of media, government and the police, the Bombay High Court on Friday quashed the FIRs filed against a total of 29 foreign Tablighi nationals and six Indians and slammed propaganda against them, calling it as ‘persecution’.
The foreign Tablighi members were booked under various provisions of IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act, Maharashtra Police Act, Disaster Management Act and Foreigner’s Act for allegedly violating their Tourist Visa conditions by attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin in Delhi.
According to LiveLaw, the court said: “The aforesaid material produced on record shows…there is no restriction on foreigners for visiting religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourses.”
The court also slammed the propaganda created against the foreign Tablighi Jamaat attendees and how there was an attempt made to create a picture that these foreigners were responsible for spreading Covid-19 virus in India. “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 Covid-19 virus in India. There was virtually persecution against these foreigners.”
The court also came down heavily against the government for making the Tablighi Jamaat attendees a scapegoat to serve their political interests. “A political government tries to find the scapegoat when there is a pandemic or calamity and the circumstances show that there is a probability that these foreigners were chosen to make them scapegoats…”
The court also referenced the citizenship law protests that took place across India in December and January, saying there was a “smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and Muslims for their alleged activities”.
Ever since the Tablighi Jamaat gathering at Delhi’s Nizamuddin, the overwhelming section of the media gave a communal angle in the coverage to vilify Tablighi Jamaat followers and Muslims at large. There has been rampant disinformation and a tsunami of fake news attributing old and often unrelated incidents to Muslim, blaming them of a conspiracy to spread the pandemic.
News channels and even some politicians from the ruling BJP have maliciously termed the coronavirus pandemic as ‘Corona Jihad’, ‘Terrorist Virus’, insinuating a Muslim-led conspiracy behind its spread.
The Court also observed: “Considering the dates on which these persons were taken in custody, it can be said that there is more possibility that they got infected in India and they were not already infected when they arrived in India. Further, admittedly screening at the airport was done of these petitioners before allowing them to leave the airport. The entire aforesaid exercise was done by the Central Government against the persons like petitioners with the presumption that they were already infected when that contention cannot be substantiated. Even in the chargesheet there is no mention that there were cases of patients reported in all the countries of which the petitioners are nationals. The criminal case cannot be tried on the basis of such suspicion.”