On Thursday, a Delhi court had reportedly set aside the punishment of 60 Malaysian nationals, belonging to Tablighi Jamaat, for a fine of ₹7000 each after they had attended the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi. They were accused of violating visa norms and government rules, amidst the Coronavirus outbreak in the capital city.
The order was passed by Metropolitan Magistrate Siddharth Malik after the Nizamuddin Markaz attendees sought for a lesser punishment and accepted the ‘mild’ charges under a plea bargaining process. Advocate S Hari Haran informed that the accused could walk free after the complainant, Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Lajpat Nagar, Inspector (Nizamuddin) and Additional Commissioner of Police (Lajpat Nagar) did not object to their plea bargain.
Reportedly, the Tablighi Jamaatis were charged under the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act and relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). As per reports, the Delhi Police (Crime Branch) had registered a total of 49 chargesheets, and 11 supplementary chargesheets against 956 Tablighi Jaamatis from 36 countries.
Nizamuddin Markaz attendees had no malicious intent, argues counsel
Hari Haran argued in court that the ‘inadvertent’ offence was committed with no malicious intent and that it would not be repeated. While the Magistrate had initially imposed a fine of ₹15,000 on each accused, the counsel pleaded for a lesser fine citing that many of them were either students or retired individuals. Following that, the Judge reduced the fine amount to ₹7,000. The Malaysian nationals were also granted bail on a bond of ₹10,000. During the hearing, the accused along with embassy officials were present in the court.
What does the law say?
As per reports, an accused can plead guilty to an offence and seek lesser punishment under a plea deal. Under the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure), an accused can file for a plea bargain in cases where no crime had been committed against women or children below 14 years. It further includes offences where the maximum punishment is 7-year imprisonment or the ones that do not affect the socio-economic conditions of the society.
MHA blacklists defaulters
Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had decided to ban more than 2,200 blacklisted foreign nationals from entering India for 10 years for violating visa norms and getting involved in Tablighi Jamaat activities. The Modi government had blacklisted 960 foreigners in April, including four Americans, nine Britishers, and six Chinese nationals who had attended the Nizamuddin Markaz on tourist visas. In addition to the already blacklisted 960 foreigners members of the Tablighi Jamaat, more than 1,000 others had been banned from coming to India for violating visa norms by visiting the country on tourist and e-visas.