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Three petitions seeking a stay on the dastarbandi ceremony (anointment) for the son of Jama Masjid’s “Shahi Imam” Ahmed Bukhari as the “deputy” or naib Imam have been filed before the Delhi High Court.
The Imam of India’s largest mosque had recently roused controversy by announcing that his 19-year-old son would be appointed the deputy imam and had later said that the dastarbandi was a “private religious ceremony”.
Alleging that the post of an imam cannot be hereditary under Islam or under Indian law, the pleas state that Imam Bukhari is an “appointee” of the Waqf Board and cannot be allowed to appoint his own successor.
Further, the pleas claim that the post of the Naib Imam is also under the authority of the Waqf Board and cannot be claimed by any person.
A PIL has been filed by Old Delhi resident and businessman Suhail Ahmed Khan, who has previously filed petitions alleging “illegal” construction inside the Jama Masjid premises and has sought action against the Imam. Another PIL has been filed by advocate V K Anand, who has claimed that under the Waqf Board rules, the “Naib Imam post is a public post”.
A third is an intervention application filed by the NGO United Front for Protection and Welfare of Auqaf, filed through advocate Saif Mehmood, who has stated that the appointment and the function organised by Imam Bukhari was “an open challenge to the statutory authority of the Waqf Board, as the Waqf Board was the statutory authority” with the power to appoint remove or transfer an imam.
The plea filed by Suhail Khan has also sought a CBI investigation into allegation of financial mismanagement against Bukhari, claiming that he and his family had “profited” from the Jama Masjid, and had “illegally occupied” space inside the Masjid premises as residence.
The pleas also claim that the title of “Shahi Imam” could not be used by Bukhari, as the title was “void” after the collapse of the Mughal Monarchy in India.
The controversy over the appointment of the “Naib Imam” had erupted after Imam Bukhari announced that his 19 year old son would be placed as the “Naib Imam” and the dastarbandi ceremony would take place on November 22. The PILs are scheduled to be heard by the court on Wednesday.