HC allows foreign Markaz attendees to shift

HC allows shifting of Markaz attendee foreigners from quarantine centres to alternate accommodation

PTI file photo

The Delhi High Court Thursday allowed shifting of 955 foreign nationals, who had participated in the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz event, from institutional quarantine to an alternate place of accommodation.

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A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar, which conducted the hearing through video conferencing, disposed of two petitions filed by various foreign nationals and said all of them will be shifted from government's quarantine centers to nine designated places in the national capital as suggested by them.

The high court's order came after the Centre, Delhi government and Delhi Police did not object to the suggestion of petitioners' counsel for shifting the foreigners to alternate accommodation and that the financial burden will be borne by the community, Tablighi Jamaat.

The high court had earlier sought response of the authorities on a plea seeking release of 916 foreign nationals, who had participated in the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz event and are held in institutional quarantine since March 30 despite being tested negative for coronavirus. Later, another similar petition was filed by various other foreign nationals.

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The Revenue Department, in a status report filed through Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra and advocate Chaitanya Gosain, gave its no objection for shifting the foreign nationals. Similarly, Delhi Police and Centre also verbally recorded their no objection for it.

The high court was also informed that 47 charge sheets have been filed against the foreign nationals as of now in the trial court.

Senior advocate Rebecca John and lawyer Ashima Mandla, appearing for the petitioners, had sought that all foreign nationals who have been tested negative for COVID-19 and are in quarantine be released and sent to alternate places of accommodation and submitted the list.

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The Delhi Police had earlier told the high court that it had neither arrested nor detained anyone in the case lodged against members of Tablighi Jamaat for participating in the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz event during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The petitions had challenged a May 9 order of Delhi government's Department of Revenue which had directed for handing over of 567 foreign nationals, presently held in institutional quarantine, to the custody of Delhi Police after being tested negative for the virus.

The petitioners had said the order is ultra vires to the right to equality before law and right to life and liberty. 

The plea said FIRs were lodged by the Delhi Police in relation to the Markaz congregation against unknown persons.

It said the Delhi government's Revenue Department's order directing for handling over custody of 567 foreign nationals under institutional quarantine to the custody of the Delhi Police, upon being tested negative for Covid-19, is prima facie illegal and untenable in law.

After being exposed to a large gathering in March amid the COVID-19 or coronavirus lockdown many members of Tablighi Jamaat from Markaz Hazrat Nizamuddin were taken out by the authorities and lodged in different quarantine centres in Delhi. Some of them were sent to the centres a few days later after being detained from various mosques.

In April, COVID-19 cases in Delhi spiked after hundreds of many Tablighi Jamaat members, who had attended a large congregation in Nizamuddin, tested positive. 

The other members were directly taken to quarantine centres to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

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