Updated: April 15, 2021 8:57:37 pm
The Delhi High Court Thursday rejected the Centre’s stand that no gathering can be permitted at the Nizamuddin Markaz mosque as religious congregations stand prohibited by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority in the capital, and directed Delhi Police to allow a total of 50 persons to offer prayers five times a day at Masjid Bangley Wali’s first floor during the month of Ramadan in accordance with social distancing norms.
Justice Mukta Gupta in the order said the DDMA in its April 10 order has not ordered closure of religious places in Delhi, and when the orders were issued last year by DDMA, a clear distinction was drawn between religious gatherings and places of worship. The April 10 notification prohibits social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious, festival-related and other gatherings and congregations, added the court.
“It is evident that there is no prohibition nor any directions to close religious places/places of worship,” said the court, adding that Masjid Bangley Wali is a place of worship for public and the central government has been permitting offering of namaz by five persons five times a day.
“Considering the fact that religious places/places of worship have not been closed for the public by the notification dated April 10, this court finds that petitioner (Delhi Waqf Board) has made a prima facie case wherein devotees are required to be permitted to perform namaz during the month of Ramadan at Masjid Bangley Wali,” continued the court.
It further said offering of namaz has to strictly be in accordance with SOPs laid down by DDMA in June 2020 for places of worship. “Considering the fact that devotees are required to perform namaz five times during the holy month of Ramadan, and it has to be taken care that Covid-19 infection does not spread, which is increasing exponentially in Delhi and does not affect health of public at large and devotees visiting the Bangley Wali Masjid, this court directs SHO PS Nizamuddin to permit 50 persons to perform namaz five times at Bangley Wali Masjid,” the court said further.
However, the court also said namaz will be permitted on the first floor of the mosque only at designated areas by maintaining social distancing and the SOPs laid down by the DDMA in the notification issued on June 7, 2020. It rejected the plea to allow prayers on other floors. The Centre also opposed allowing prayer on other floors of the mosque.
The court said if the Covid-19 situation had not occurred, it would have allowed a reasonable number on all floors. “Please understand it is in everybody’s interest to maintain the sanctity of the place. Devotees should perform namaz, there is no getting away from that, but at the same time, it is for the safety of the people,” it observed, adding that the situation is getting grim day by day.
“Since all religious places are open, this also had to be permitted,” continued the court. The permission given by court to offer prayers is subject to any other order which may be passed by DDMA in relation to religious places in Delhi, it said.
The Centre and Delhi Police on Tuesday had told the court that no gathering or congregation can be permitted at the Markaz as these have been prohibited by the DDMA since April 10 and that the Delhi Waqf Board’s plea for opening the mosque for prayers during the month of Ramadan cannot be allowed. The court then asked the authorities to file an affidavit by Thursday, detailing the manner in which this rule is being implemented and whether religious gatherings and congregations are being permitted to take place at other religious places including temples, churches and mosques.
Delhi Police in an affidavit on Thursday said the Covid situation has become grave, DDMA has banned all religious congregations in the capital and the April 10 notification is applicable to all religious places. However, it also said that the court “in its wisdom and discretion may permit such person as it deem fit and proper to perform namaz” only on the ground floor of the mosque subject to following of Covid-19 protocol and recording of “the event” through CCTVs installed in consultation with local police.
However, the court expressed dissatisfaction with the affidavit. “It is evident from the reading of the status report that no clear stand has been taken whether any religious or festival-related gatherings or congregations are permitted at other religious places like temples, churches, mosques,” it said.
The court has been hearing a petition filed by the Waqf Board through advocate Wajeeh Shafiq for easing of restrictions at the Markaz, including the mosque where public entry was banned in the aftermath of Tablighi Jamaat members testing positive for Covid there a year ago. It listed the case for hearing on July 16.
On Monday, the court had rejected a submission made by the Centre and Delhi that only 20 persons be allowed to enter the mosque during Ramadan out of a police-verified list of 200 people and said there can be no fixed list of devotees and the mosque be opened for prayers during Ramadan in accordance with DDMA guidelines.
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