'Tablighi Jamaat criminally negligent; heinous charges could be added in probe'
The Delhi Police have charged the chief of Delhi-based Tablighi Jamaat Markaz, Maulana Saad, under stringent sections for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which is equivalent to second degree murder.
Legal experts say if during the investigation more serious offences are made out then police are free to add further stringent sections to the case.
According to police sources, Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been added in the FIR lodged against Saad and others in the matter. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi speaking to IANS said: "This is a clear case of Section 302 instead of 304. The Tablighi Jamaat people were grossly criminally negligent in conducting their affairs in March, which is responsible for a large portion of positive people all over the country. They knew their action would lead to spread of infection, which is likely to cause numerous deaths."
Rohtagi insisted immediate action must be taken in the matter. The cleric was last seen on March 28. Later, through an audio message he claimed to be in self-isolation.
According to Section 304, whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years. Earlier, Maulana Saad was booked under sections which were bailable but after the addition of Section 304, it will be tough to secure bail.
Senior advocate Aishwarya Bhati said culpable homicide can be understood as second degree murder, somebody does not have intention to cause death but they have done an act which is so dangerous it is likely to cause death.
"Currently this case is under investigation, as these people are yet to join. At any stage of the investigation if it is found their roles in the conspiracy or in crime are much more heinous then even more heinous offences may be murder can added to the investigation before the chargesheet can be filed", added Bhati.
She insisted if the accused do not join the investigation at this stage then they would end up adding more culpability to the crime.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh said more appropriate sections should have been Section 51 (b) of the National Disaster Management Act and Section 270 of the IPC. Singh said both these sections carry punishment of two years each and Section 304 will not apply.
Kumar Mihir, Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court, said the congregation of the Tablighi Jamat by Maulana Saad was in clear contravention of the mandate of lockdown imposed by the Centre. "The subsequent act of hiding the jamaatis including foreigners affected with COVID-19, which resulted in spread of the viral infection. Deaths of the affected persons clearly amount to culpable homicide and therefore registration of FIR under Section 304 IPC is completely valid", added Mihir. IANS