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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

10 days after saying DDMA orders be followed, Centre opposes complete reopening of Markaz Nizamuddin mosque

Waqf Board advocate tells HC: ‘They are only keeping it locked… They are intermeddling with our rights’

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: March 4, 2022 5:42:37 pm
Tablighi Jamaat, OCIDelhi Waqf Board had earlier approached the court for easing of restrictions at the premises of Nizamuddin Markaz, which has been under lock and key since a case was registered in connection with a Tablighi Jamaat congregation there last year. (Express File Photo)

Ten days after the Centre told the Delhi High Court that the Masjid Bangley Wali at Markaz Nizamuddin can be reopened in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, the union government opposed complete re-opening of the entire premises and said only a few police-verified persons may be permitted to offer prayers there. The DDMA had last week ordered the lifting of all Covid restrictions in the national capital.

“The locus of the petitioner (Delhi Waqf Board) is doubtful and this particular premises is part of a case property which has been attached,” advocate Rajat Nair, representing the Centre, told the court during the hearing of Waqf Board’s petition for easing of restrictions at Markaz Nizamuddin where public entry was banned in the aftermath of Tablighi Jamaat members testing positive for coronavirus in 2020.

Nair further informed the bench of Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri that on the occasion of Shab-e-Barat, the authorities had permitted offering of namaz by 50 persons on the mosque’s first floor. “I have no dispute. I don’t say that those people cannot continue this time at Shab-e-Barat as well as during the holy month of Ramadan. If my learned friend (lawyer on opposite side) accepts that order, I have no dispute about that but if he is asking for reopening of the entire premises, then I have some submissions to make,” he said.

When the court asked the counsel whether he had seen the latest DDMA order, he responded that “DDMA order was subsequent”. Nair further submitted that the authorities had initially opposed the reopening of the place but later, considering the religious nature of it, permitted five people to offer namaz five times a day and on occasions like Shab-e-Barat and month of Ramadan, permitted more people “pursuant to their verification by the local SHO”.

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Submitting that the same arrangement can be made this time, he argued, “There is no person who has come forward placing documents as to who is the rightful owner of this particular property… to whom Waqf has granted lease”.

Advocate Wajeeh Shafiq, representing the Waqf Board, submitted that the court was being misled by the union government since when 50 people were permitted, there still existed certain DDMA guidelines, but those directions now stand withdrawn completely.

“They are only keeping it locked. Admittedly it is a mosque. It is a gazette-notified mosque. We have the statutory right to control, manage and administer these properties. They are intermeddling with our rights,” submitted Shafiq.

On February 22, Justice Mukta Gupta had granted time to the Centre and police to file a status report and listed the application, seeking removal of locks from the mosque, for hearing on March 4. Observing that the DDMA’s Covid guidelines will apply to Markaz Nizamuddin as well, the court had in November 2021 ordered a joint inspection of the religious place. A report of the joint inspection is already on record and it states that Madrasa, Masjid and Hostel at Markaz Nizamuddin are separate from each other.

Seeking immediate reopening of the mosque, the Waqf Board last week told the court that the month of Ramzan begins somewhere around April 2 and also Shab-e-Barat is in the month of March. The counsel representing the Centre and Delhi Police in reply had told the court that the areas at the Markaz Nizamuddin have already been earmarked after the joint inspection and that the only question remains on how many people can be allowed to go and offer prayers.

On Friday, Justice Ohri asked the Waqf Board to place on record the latest DDMA order and listed the matter for next hearing on March 11.

The Delhi Waqf Board in the petition filed in February 2021 has submitted that Masjid Bangley Wali, Madarsa Kashif-ul-uloom, and the attached hostel situated at Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin have been locked since March 2020. The Centre earlier had told the court 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.

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