A Delhi court on Thursday allowed 60 Malaysians to walk free on payment of a fine of ₹7,000 each after they accepted mild charges, under the plea bargain process, related to various violations, including the visa norms, while attending an event at a religious centre in Nizamuddin here, their lawyer said.
Metropolitan Magistrate Siddharth Malik passed the order after the Malaysians sought lesser punishment under plea bargain and accepted mild charges, the lawyer said.
They were chargesheeted for attending the religious congregation here in March having allegedly violated visa conditions, indulging in missionary activities illegally and violating government guidelines issued in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
They were allowed to walk free after the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Lajpat Nagar, who was the complainant in the case, Additional Commissioner of Police at Lajpat Nagar and Inspector at Nizamuddin said they had no objection to their pleas, advocate S. Hari Haran said.
Under plea bargaining, the accused plead guilty to the offence, praying for a lesser punishment. The Code of Criminal Procedure allows for plea bargaining in cases where the maximum punishment is 7-year imprisonment, offences don’t affect the socio-economic conditions of the society and the offence is not committed against a woman or a child below 14 years.
During the hearing, the foreigners were produced before the court and the officials concerned of their embassy were also present, said the counsel.
Mr. Hari Haran told the court that the alleged offences were committed inadvertently and not without any mal intention and would not be repeated.
The judge proposed a fine ₹15,000 each on them to which the lawyer pleaded for a lesser fine saying some of them were students and retired persons and will not be able to afford it. The judge then imposed a fine of ₹7,000 on them.
The Malaysian nationals were granted bail on Tuesday on furnishing a bail bond of ₹10,000 each.
According to the chargesheets, all the foreign nationals have been booked for violating visa rules, violating government guidelines issued in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and regulations of Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act and prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC.
They have also been charged for the offences under Sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Foreigners Act.
The punishment for various offences under penal provisions ranges from six months to eight years of imprisonment.
The Centre had cancelled their visa and blacklisted them. The foreign nationals have not been arrested yet and are presently residing at various places as approved by the Delhi High Court. In April, COVID-19 cases across the country spiked after hundreds of Tablighi Jamaat members, who had attended the religious congregation, tested positive.
At least 9,000 people, including the foreign nationals participated in the religious congregation. Later, many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.
An FIR was registered against Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad Kandhalvi and six others on March 31 on a complaint of the Station House Officer of Nizamuddin under sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act (2005), Foreigners Act and other relevant sections of Indian Penal Code.
Mr. Kandhalvi was later booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder after some of the attendees of the religious congregation died due to COVID-19, the police said.