Delhi police have named 6 people in its FIR over last month’s religious congregation at Nizamuddin which also includes the head of the mosque who hosted the meet, for defying government orders related to the Covid-19 outbreak and allowing visitors to remain inside.
The case has been registered under the Epidemic Diseases Act and penal code sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), section 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and section 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule).
Police on Wednesday said that a search was launched to trace Maulana Md Saad, who heads the Markaz, the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat that organised the March 13-15 gathering.
“Maulana Saad is a resident of western Uttar Pradesh. So far we have not been able to trace him,” a police official stated.
Over 2,000 people, including some from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan, had joined the congregation when the Covid-19 lockdown had not been announced yet.
On March 13, Delhi’s health secretary, Padmini Singla, had prohibited gatherings of more than 200 people under the Epidemic Diseases Act.
Sources in the Union Home Ministry informed national security adviser Ajit Doval had visited the Markaz at 2am on the intervening night of March 28 and 29 and met Maulana Saad and asked him to get the occupants tested and quarantined. Around 200 of the visitors were later taken to hospitals in Delhi on March 29 and March 30 for tests.
Doval is said to have close contact with ulemas, including people from the Tablighi Jamaat, in India and abroad as part of the government’s outreach programme.
On Wednesday, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said 2,346 people had been evacuated from the Markaz, with 536 now in hospital and the rest in quarantine centres. The final evacuation took 36 hours and ended before dawn on Wednesday. 53 have been tested positive so far.
The home ministry sources said at least 11 deaths across the country have been linked to the gathering at the southeast Delhi locality, triggering a nationwide search for all those who had attended the meet and those who came into contact with them. Several people had left for different states in small groups, while a large number had stayed back.
A retired Delhi police official, who report to the Centre, said the Markaz appeared to be in violation of the Delhi government’s orders restricting gatherings. “At the same time it is beyond comprehension why the Delhi government and Delhi police did not act on March 13 when the congregation started. Why did they not ask them to disperse on the first day itself?” he said. Nizamuddin police station is just 300 metres from the Markaz.
The Markaz has denied any wrongdoing and said on Tuesday that it had informed Delhi police and officials of Kejriwal’s government about the meet and also took permission to evacuate those stranded inside the mosque but were denied the go-ahead.
The Tablighi Jamaat also said that it had no new visitors after the lockdown was announced on March 24 and those present were stuck inside because of the travel restrictions that had kicked in.
The mosque’s authorities said they had requested the Delhi government and Delhi police last week to arrange for the return of those who had taken part in the meet.
“It is requested that due to lockdown and non-availability of transport, approximately 1000-1200 Tablighi Jamaat workers have been stranded inside the Markaz,” Maulana Saad had said in a letter.
Kejriwal had said on Tuesday that any officer guilty of dereliction of duty in the Markaz case would be punished. His government on Wednesday did not respond to queries on action against officials who did not evacuate those who had gathered at the mosque earlier, despite requests by the Markaz.
The government on Wednesday shifted more than 200 people, including few foreigners who were stranded in a gurdwara in north Delhi’s Majnu ka Tila to a school which has turned into a quarantine centre in Nehru Vihar.