Tablighi Jamaat: HC transfers minor Malaysian’s case from one JJB to another due to lack of quorum

New Delhi:  The Delhi High Court Thursday transferred the case of a minor Malaysian, who was booked for attending Tablighi Jamaat congregation during COVID-19 allegedly in violation of visa norms, from one Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) to another due to lack of quorum.

Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani, who was conducting the hearing through video conferencing, directed that the case against the 17-year-old Malaysian national be forthwith transferred from JJB-1 in Kingsway Camp to JJB-4 in Vishwas Nagar here to be dealt with expeditiously in accordance with the law.

In exercise of its inherent powers under 482 CrPC. this court is persuaded to exercise its inherent powers to direct that the case against the applicant arising from the charge sheet in FIR. be transferred forthwith from JJB-1 in Kingsway Camp to JJB-4 in Vishwas Nagar, to be dealt with expeditiously, in accordance with the law, the judge said while dictating the order.

The high court was informed by the minor’s counsel that like other 121 Malaysian nationals, the juvenile was willing to enter plea bargaining but due to vacancy and lack of a quorum (number of judges required to be present to make it a sufficient bench) in JJB-1, he cannot proceed over.

It was told that the High Commission of Malaysia has made arrangements for 121 Malaysians to return to their country on Friday and only the juvenile will be left behind in India.

Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra and advocate Chaitanya Gosain confirmed the high court that in JJB-1, presently there is only one Principal Magistrate and there are two vacancies and due to lack of quorum in JJB-1, there might be a delay in the final order in the case.

In the spirit of operating in expeditious disposal of cases, Mehra said the state has no objection if the minor is treated in the same way the other Malaysians were treated and that his application is decided expeditiously since only one juvenile appears to be left behind while 121 compatriots are on their way back to Malaysia.

Advocate S Hariharan, appearing for the juvenile Malaysian, told the high court that there were a total of 122 Malaysian nationals who were arrayed as accused in the charge sheet filed by the Delhi Police before a trial court here and this applicant was the only minor among them.

He said the 121 adult Malaysians have entered into plea bargaining before the magistrate and a fine of Rs 7,000 imposed on them and the proceedings were closed.

However, when it was transpired that the applicant is a minor, his matter was sent to JJB, Kingsway Camp where the investigating officer filed the charge sheet against him, the lawyer submitted.

After appearing before the JJB through video conferencing, the parties came to know that no order could be passed due to lack of quorum as there were vacancies in the board and the matter was adjourned for July 30, he said.

He prayed that either proceedings are dropped against the minor by the high court or it should order the transfer of the case from JJB-1 to JJB-4 where a quorum is functional.

He also submitted that there is no other JJB within the jurisdiction of District and Sessions Judge (Headquarters) to which the minor may seek for transfer of his case.

The Malaysian nationals were booked for attending Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin here allegedly in violation of visa norms, indulging in missionary activities illegally and violating government guidelines issued in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.

The trial court had earlier granted bail to the Malaysians. It had also allowed them to walk free on payment of a fine of Rs 7,000 each, after they accepted mild charges, under the plea bargain process, related to various violations including visa norms while attending the congregation.

These foreigners had attended the event in March, following which in April COVID-19 cases across the country spiked after hundreds of Tablighi Jamaat members, who had attended the religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz event, tested positive.

The Centre has cancelled their visas and blacklisted them. The foreigners have not been arrested yet and are residing at various places approved by the Delhi High Court.

At least 9,000 people, including the foreign nationals, participated in the religious Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz. Later, many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.