Updated: November 16, 2021 8:27:05 pm
Observing that the Covid guidelines of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) will apply to the Markaz Nizamuddin as well, the Delhi High Court Tuesday ordered a joint inspection of the religious place, where public entry was banned in the aftermath of the Tablighi Jamaat members testing positive for coronavirus more than a year ago. The joint inspection will be undertaken by the Delhi Police and Delhi Waqf Board and necessary directions will be passed thereafter.
Noting that Markaz Nizamuddin comprises of Masjid Bangley Wali, Madarsa Kashif-ul-uloom and the attached hostel, Justice Mukta Gupta said that the inspection will be carried out to demarcate the place for namaz, places where congregations are permitted, and the residential area. The DDMA guidelines in relation to these areas are distinct, said the court.
“This place has three portions — place of worship, place of congregation and the residential complex. There is still a cap on the number of persons in congregation. Give me what is the area for worship, congregation and residential one, and DDMA orders will apply accordingly,” said Justice Gupta.
The court added that after the demarcation, the necessary directions for following DDMA guidelines in relation to the three areas can be passed. It said that five police officers, including the SHO, and five persons representing the Delhi Waqf Board will carry out the inspection. The report will be submitted within 15 days, the court ordered, while listing the case for the next hearing on January 12.
Senior advocate Sanjoy Ghose, representing the Delhi Waqf Board, earlier submitted that DDMA guidelines permit religious places in the capital to have visitors. “Unfortunately for so long, this particular masjid… today this seems to be one of the only rare religious places which are remaining under police lock and key,” he argued.
However, the court said there cannot be a “sweeping order” as the Markaz Nizamuddin has different portions, and ordered demarcation of the place. The Centre also told the court that it will not have any objection to such a proposal.
“Mr Ghose please earmark the areas, so that one knows… tomorrow it may not be that ‘no no this was for congregation no this was for religious place’. You people will have to lay down what is the area for what purposes and DDMA guidelines will apply to them,” said Justice Gupta.
Justifying the continuation of restrictions at Nizamuddin Markaz, the Centre, in a reply in September, had told the court that cases registered against the foreigners found staying up there have diplomatic implications and that the curbs on the premises do not violate the right to practice religion.
The Centre in its reply further said that the premises have been kept “under lock and key” in view of the fact that the Markaz management is itself under investigation in the case registered last year by the Crime Branch. “A minimum number of persons are already allowed to offer prayer in Masjid Bangley Wali. The number has been, time and again, relaxed, as and when important religious festivals are celebrated,” it said.
The Delhi Waqf Board in the petition filed through advocate Wajeeh Shafiq in February 2021 has submitted that Masjid Bangley Wali, Madarsa Kashif-ul-uloom and the attached hostel situated at Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin are locked since March 2020 and that the general public is not allowed to enter and offer prayers at the mosque; students are not allowed to continue with their education at Madrasa; and nobody is allowed to stay at the hostel meant for principal clerics and their family members.
“The Delhi Waqf Board has learnt that the local police has prepared a list of only 5-6 persons of the locality who alone can enter the mosque for the purpose of prayers. The local police open locks at the main entrance, allow them to enter at the time of prayers; after the prayers are over, those people come out and immediately thereafter the police lock the main entrance again,” stated the plea.
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