The Waqf Board was Wednesday pulled up by the Delhi High Court for “causing mischief” by allowing educational and religious activity inside a protected monument in the national capital. Holding the Board responsible, a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and S P Garg directed the authority to cooperate with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in removing encroachments from the tomb of Khan Shahid, the son of the ninth sultan of Mamluk dynasty of Delhi Ghiyas ud din Balban.
“Something which was not there you (Waqf) are allowing to happen. You have caused the mischief. You cannot allow change of its (monument) use.
“Where did the mosque, Imam and the madrassa go when conservation and restoration of the monument was going on? If you allow people to live there (monument) it will be defiled,” it said.
The court also refused to accept the Board’s claim that it was in the dark regarding the encroachments or fresh construction inside the monument and that an Imam was appointed in 2014 to offer prayers.
“Don’t try to pull wool over our eyes,” the court said. The strong observations by the bench came after it was told by the ASI, represented by advocate Akshay Makhija, and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) that there were encroachments within the monument after restoration and conservation was done and possession handed over to the Board.
The court said that the Board will remain in legal possession, but what was going on there would not be permitted, especially when “considerable amount of money has been spent on restoration and conservation of the monument”.
It directed the ASI to remove encroachments from the precincts of the monument and the protected area around, and allowed it to resort to fencing and setting up of CCTV cameras to achieve the objective.
The ASI was directed to file an action taken report before the next date of hearing.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) told the bench that it has floated two tenders for fencing of the western boundary of the park and the bids received would be opened tomorrow. The DDA said it would be awarding the contracts soon and till fencing takes place, its staff is keeping watch at the area. The Delhi Police, which too has deputed beat constables in the area, said there were no fresh encroachment.
The court was hearing a PIL by INTACH seeking seeking protection and preservation of the archaeological park, spread over 100 acres and having about 80 monuments. INTACH has said the monuments in the park range from grand structures like Quli Khan’s tomb, Balban’s tomb, Maulana Jamali’s mosque and tomb and Rajon ki Baoli, to several minor monuments that “together constitute a huge cultural asset and potential heritage recreation space for the city”.
During the hearing, the ASI told the bench that a panel set up by the high court to deal with the issue and it has already held two meetings where there was no participation by the local SDM and the Forest department of the Delhi government. The court, thereafter, directed that the local SDM and the Deputy Conservator of Forests to attend the next meeting.