CHANDIGARH: Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij on Wednesday said the Tablighi Jamaat members who had failed to report to the authorities in the state would now be booked under law, as the deadline for them to identify themselves came to an end.
The Tablighi Jamaat members had attended a religious congregation at Nizamuddin in Delhi against the social distancing protocol amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Vij said the Jamaat members who had failed to report to authorities till 5 pm on Wednesday and test positive for coronavirus will be booked under attempt to murder.
Vij, who is also the health minister of the state, has maintained that a sharp spike in the total number of COVID-19 cases in Haryana was due to the sizeable chunk of positive cases belonging to the Jamaat members.
With 11 fresh cases being reported, the total number of coronavirus cases in the northern state rose to 141 on Wednesday.
Vij said so far, nearly 1,550 of the Jamaat members, including 107 foreigners, have been tracked down in the state.
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A majority of those who entered the state before the lockdown had been traced to Nuh district, he said.
"Jamaat members who may still be hiding in the state had been given time till 5 pm on April 8 to report to the district administration concerned, failing which strict action will be initiated against them as per law," the minister had said.
Vij said on Wednesday, "The deadline given to them has ended. Those who will be tracked down now and found COVID positive will be booked under IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder)."
He justified invoking of stringent punishment against the members, as he said coronavirus was "highly contagious and fatal disease and someone who deliberately conceals it even after being given enough time deserves to be strictly dealt with".
Asked if the state planned to give any relaxation to public movement in case the lockdown is extended beyond April 14, the minister said, "We will assess (the situation). We will soon conduct random COVID-19 tests in every district, and based on the report of these tests, will be able to take any decision."
"Random tests will be conducted to check instances of community spread of the disease," he said.
Among the fresh cases reported on Wednesday, seven were reported from Faridabad, one from Nuh and two from Palwal, while Fatehabad district reported its first case, according to the state health department's evening bulletin.
At present, there are 122 active COVID-19 cases in the state, while 17 patients have been discharged.
The state has recorded two COVID-19 related deaths.
Reports of 558 samples are awaited, it said.
Among the total coronavirus cases reported in Haryana, 10 are foreign nationals, including six Sri Lankans, and one each from Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia and South Africa; while 51 are from other states, as per the state health department bulletin.
The worst affected districts of the state are Nuh (38 cases), Palwal (28), Faridabad (28) and Gurgaon (20).
In Nuh, which has emerged as a hotspot, health teams will be going to each house to check if anyone has symptoms, Vij said.
Meanwhile, 3,817 jail inmates have been released on interim or regular bail, parole or extended parole after the state government decided to release convicted prisoners with up to seven years of sentences and undertrials liable to get as long jail terms on conviction.
Foreign prisoners, however, are not included in this.
Also, the prisoners convicted in cases like drug, rape, acid attack are not among those released.
"The decision to release the prisoners had been taken in accordance with the Supreme Court's directive to decongest crowded prisons to prevent them from becoming fertile grounds for the spread of coronavirus," Jails Minister Ranjit Singh Chautala had earlier said.
On Wednesday, a senior official of the jails department said 1,658 undertrial prisoners have been released on interim bail or regular bail, while 2,159 convicts were released on special, normal or extended parole.
The official said there are at present 17,697 inmates in the jails of the state.
"All new prisoners are being kept in quarantine wards. They will be shifted after 14-days period," he added.