The Supreme Court on Thursday cited a large congregation at the Tablighi Jamaat’s headquarters in Delhi in March that was blamed for a sharp increase in Covid-19 infections and asked the Centre what guidelines had been put in place to prevent a similar situation at the farmers’ protest sites on the Capital’s borders. It issued a notice seeking the Centre’s reply within two weeks.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde remarked: “This same problem is going to arise during the farmers’ protest. We do not know if farmers are being protected from Covid. What guidelines have you issued for prevention of such things?”
“Have you learnt from your experience in handling this [Jamaat] event? Have you found out how it happened?” the bench, which also comprised justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre.
Thousands of farmers have massed on Delhi’s borders since November 26 to protest against three laws seeking to open up agricultural markets that cultivators say would hurt their interests, weaken their bargaining power and leave them at the mercy of large agribusinesses.
Mehta told the bench that an investigation of the Jamaat congregation was still underway by Delhi Police. He added that guidelines seeking to curb large gatherings were in place and sought two weeks to file a reply.
The remarks were made during the hearing of a public interest litigation by Jammu-based lawyer Supriya Pandita for a CBI probe into the Jamaat gathering.
Pandita’s lawyer, OP Parihar, cited the Jamaat gathering and added that the group’s chief Maulana Saad had not yet been arrested. The bench said it is not interested in one person. “We are interested in ensuring Covid guidelines are prepared and implemented.”