The Hon’ble High court of Bombay while quashing the FIRs registered against the Tablighi Jamaat observed that there was a “smell of malice” in the action taken against the followers. The Court while examining the material on record held that no prima facie case was made out against the 35 petitioners before the court held by Justice M.G. Sewlikar and Justice T.V. Nalawade in Hammd Abdul Kadar Banota versus State of Maharashtra through Police Station Officer, Jamamkhed Police Station, Jamamkhed, Tq. Jamamkhed, and Dist. – Ahmednagar [Cri.W.P. 548/20 & Ors].
Facts related to this petition is: all the petitioners were foreign nationals. This F.I.R. was given by a police constable and according to him, on 30.3.2020 when they were on patrolling duty, they received secret information and on that basis, they went to Bhaldar Masjid of Newasa city and there they found two trustees of Masjid with eight foreign nationals. It was contended that it was noticed that the foreign nationals were living in Masjid. It is contended in the F.I.R. that it was noticed that as foreign nationals had come to India on a tourist visa, but they were working for Tablig Jamamat and they were found spreading Muslim religion and that was in breach of conditions of the visa, F.I.R. was given against them.
It was the contented by the petitioners, they were mainly foreign nationals that they came to India on a valid visa issued by the Government of India and they have come to experience Indian culture, tradition, hospitality and Indian food. It was their contention that on their arrival at the airport, they were screened and tested for the Covid-19 virus and only when they were found negative for the virus, they were allowed to leave the airport. It was their contention that they were visiting various places of India and particularly, Ahmednagar to observe the religious practices of Muslims. It was their contention that after their arrival in Ahmednagar district, they had informed to District Superintendent of Police about their arrival and that was done much prior to the date of registration of the crime against them.
The Hon’ble Court examined the role of media in the whole controversy and observed that 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 and that there was virtual persecution against them.
The Hon’ble Court also referred to the CAA – NRC protests and observed that there were protests by taking processions, holding Dharana at many places in India from at least prior to January 2020. Most of the persons who participated in the protest were Muslims. It is their contention that Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is discriminatory against Muslims. They believe that Indian citizenship will not be granted to Muslim refugees and migrants. They were protesting against the National Registration of Citizenship (NRC). There were protests on large scale not only in Delhi but in most of the States in India. It can be said that due to the present action is 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 the smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and Muslims for their alleged activities. The circumstances like malice are an important consideration when relief is claimed of quashing of F.I.R. and the case itself.
After taking the consideration all the facts many foreigners from other countries are sent back by the Central Government without making any inquiry. Social and religious tolerance is a practical necessity for unity and integrity in India and that is also made compulsory by our Constitution.
The Hon’ble Court concluded that the state government acted under political compulsion and action against the Tablighi Jamaat was not justified.
Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari