New Delhi: The Delhi Police Crime Branch has booked Tablighi Jamaat chief Mohammad Saad and six others for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, ThePrint has learnt.
According to a source in the police, section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was added to an existing FIR that was filed against the seven of them on 31 March.
The FIR states that the Jamaat, including Tablighi chief Mohammad Saad, flouted all directions by the government, did not take safety precautions and risked the health of the participants as well as the general public by exposing them to a highly infectious disease.
“The sections were added because first, Saad did not inform the health department or any other agency about the huge gathering, despite several notices to him. Also, he and others named in the FIR caused a situation wherein a highly infectious disease spread and threatened the life of inmates and general public at large,” a police source said.
The cleric and six others have also been booked under sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act, and five other sections of the IPC, including criminal conspiracy.
According to the FIR, the menace and hazard of Covid-19 was verbally conveyed to Saad and the management of Nizamuddin Markaz on several occasions, including during meetings held at a police station, but the group did not pay heed to it.
The Tablighi Jamaat made headlines after a congregation it held last month resulted in the mass spread of the highly infectious Covid-19 disease. The congregation had thousands in attendance, including foreigners from South Asia, making the event the largest known vector for the novel coronavirus in the region.
In the national capital itself, over 1,080 of the 1,561 cases are related to it, according to the latest health bulletin by the Delhi government, which categorises the cases as ‘Special Operations’.
“They deliberately, wilfully, negligently and malignantly disobeyed directions … Written notices were also issued twice to Saad and management of Markaz but they did not pay any heed,” the FIR says.
It also says that the premises was inspected by the sub-divisional magistrate, Defence Colony, on various occasions, including from 26-30 March, at which time around 1,300 devotees from various states and foreign countries were found residing there without following social distancing.
“No one was wearing mask or using santiser,” the FIR notes.
‘Will join investigation’
While the Delhi Police claims that Saad has not yet joined the investigation, his lawyer Tauseef Khan said the police have not yet served any notice.
Amid speculation that Saad had gone into hiding, his lawyer said that he had quarantined himself and would join the investigation after 14 April, ThePrint had earlier reported.
In the first week of April, the Delhi Police had sent a notice to Saad under Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, asking him to furnish all documents relevant to the investigation.
“We had partially joined the investigation that day itself by giving a reply to that notice. We are willing to join the investigation, but we have not been sent any further notice. The police are trying to malign the reputation of the Jamaat and Saad,” Khan said.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police have also issued look out circulars against 1,900 foreigners who came to India to take part in the March congregation.