New Delhi: The central government has rejected the idea of having a separate CBI probe into the Tablighi Jamaat convention in Delhi’s Nizamuddin, saying the police investigation into the case is being conducted on a “day-to-day” basis and will be completed in a time-bound manner.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said this Thursday in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court. The affidavit was submitted in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Jammu-based lawyer Supriya Pandita.
The petitioner questioned the role of the Centre, the Delhi government and the Delhi Police for risking the health of citizens by permitting the congregation in mid-March in which foreigners also took part. She asked for a CBI probe into the aspects leading to the Tablighi Jamaat convention in the national capital.
“The investigation in the aforesaid matter is being conducted on a day-to-day basis, in accordance with the mandate of law and all efforts are being made to finalise investigation and submit a report u/s 173 CrPC before the Hon’ble Court in a time-bound manner,” stated the affidavit signed by MHA under-secretary Ram Vilas Premi.
Pandita’s matter was listed for hearing before a bench led by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, which adjourned the matter by two weeks.
Tablighi Jamaat, a non-political global Sunni Islamic evangelical movement of Indian origin, came under the scanner for the congregation that is believed to have spawned a surge in the country’s Covid-19 cases.
No negligence in dealing with the issue: MHA
The government asserted proper investigation is being carried out into the matter.
The petitioner’s plea for a CBI probe “does not merit any consideration”, the MHA said.
Pandita’s contention that authorities had displayed negligence was also controverted by the ministry.
The affidavit gave out details of steps and action taken by the police against the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters in Nizamuddin. It said Delhi Police contacted the authorities of the Nizamuddin markaz (headquarters) on 21 March to apprise them of the threat of Covid-19.
Instructions were given to take immediate steps to prevent the spread of the disease. Foreigners were told to go back to their respective countries and Indian delegates were asked to return to their native places, the ministry stated. However, the markaz refused to follow the instructions, it added.
The MHA affidavit further said an audio purportedly by Maulana Saad, the head of the Tablighi Jamaat, was circulated on social media in which he was heard asking his followers to defy the lockdown, social distancing norms and to attend the religious gathering of the markaz.
The congregation continued despite Saad being informed about the menace and hazard of Covid-19, the ministry stated.
Markaz ‘willfully’ defied lockdown
According to the MHA affidavit, “Organisers (of Tablighi Jamaat) had deliberately, willfully, negligently and malignantly disobeyed the lawful directions issued by the government in allowing a huge gathering to assemble inside a closed premise over a protracted period of time without any semblance of social distancing or provision of masks and sanitisers.”
Orders, issued under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code to restrict social, political and religious gatherings, were defied, according to the MHA’s submissions.
The central government has also issued directions to states to take necessary legal action against those who have violated the law by taking part in the congregation, the court was informed.