The Delhi Police has traced Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, who has been on the run after an FIR was registered against him for organising a religious gathering last month despite restrictions to combat the coronavirus, sources said on Wednesday, 8 April.
The cleric has been traced to Zakir Nagar in southeast Delhi, sources said.
His lawyer Tauseef Khan, however, said Saad is under self-quarantine and will join investigation after his quarantine period is over.
On 31 March, Delhi Police's Crime Branch lodged an FIR against seven people, including the cleric, on a complaint by Station House Officer Nizamuddin for holding the congregation here allegedly in violation of the orders against large gathering and not maintaining social distancing to contain the spread of coronavirus.
A day later, the Delhi Police's Crime Branch wrote to Saad and others, seeking the details under Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. A second notice was also issued to him this week.
“Saad is currently under self-quarantine and will join investigation once the period of 14 days gets over,” his advocate, Tauseef Khan, told PTI. Saad’s quarantine is expected to end next week. His lawyer said a reply to the second notice will be given soon.
In an audio message last week, Saad said he was exercising self-quarantine after several hundreds who visited the Tablighi Jamaat's Nizamudddin markaz tested positive for coronavirus.
Visited by thousands last month, the Nizamudddin centre also turned out to be a hotspot for spread of coronavirus not only in national capital and country. According to the FIR, the Delhi Police contacted the centre on 21 March and reminded them of the government order that prohibited any political or religious gathering of more than 50 people.
However, no one paid any heed to the police's direction, it said. Moreover, an audio recording purportedly of Saad was found in circulation on WhatsApp on March 21, in which he was heard asking his followers to defy the lockdown and social distancing and to attend the religious gathering of the Markaz.
On 24 March, the government ordered 21-day nationwide lockdown and restricted any social, political or religious gathering.
The same day a meeting was held at Hazarat Nizamuddin police station between SHO and officer bearers of the centre.
The meeting was attended by Saad, Mohammad Ashraf, Mohammad Salman, Yunus, Mursaleen Saifi, Jishan and Mufti Shehzad and they were informed about lockdown orders.
So far, several hundred cases of COVID-19 cases across the country have been found to be linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation held in Delhi last month.
More than 25,500 Tablighi members and their contacts have been quarantined in the country after the Centre and the state governments conducted a "mega operation" to identify them.
At least 9,000 people participated in the religious congregation in Nizamuddin. Later, many of the attendees travelled to various parts of the country.