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Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022

Supreme Court no to Ganesh puja at Bengaluru Idgah ground, HC allows it in Hubbali

Supreme Court directs status quo be maintained on Bengaluru land; Karnataka High Court says ‘facts different’ in Hubbali case.

idgah groundSecurity personnel at the Idgah ground in Bengaluru on Tuesday. (PTI)

In two separate courtroom battles Tuesday, the Supreme Court said no to Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at the Idgah grounds in Bengaluru while the Dharwad bench of the Karnataka High Court late at night declined to stay an order of the Hubbali Mayor allowing the celebrations at the Idgah maidan in Hubbali.

In the Supreme Court, a three-judge bench of Justices Indira Banerjee, Abhay S Oka and M M Sundresh, which heard the matter for nearly two hours, directed that status quo “as of today” be maintained regarding the land at Chamarajpet in Bengaluru and said the parties should go back to the Karnataka High Court to agitate their issues.

Hours later in Dharwad, the single-judge bench of Justice Ashok Kinagi ruled that there was no title dispute over the Idgah maidan in Hubbali unlike the Idgah maidan in Bengaluru. The bench ruled that “facts are different” and in this case the Anjuman–i-Islam is not entitled to a benefit as passed by the Supreme Court in the Bengaluru matter.

The High Court observed that the Idgah maidan in Hubbali belongs to the Hubbali Dharwad Municipal Corporation and that the land has been leased for 999 years to the Anjuman-i-Islam. It said the HDMC, however, still has rights over the use of the land.

The Anjuman-i-Islam approached the HC bench following the SC order for a status quo in the Bengaluru Idgah maidan case even as the Karnataka government sought to allow Ganesh festivities on the ground on August 31.

The Supreme Court, in its order in the Bengaluru matter, said, “The writ petition is pending before the Single Bench of High Court and has been fixed for hearing on 23.09.2022. All questions/issues may be agitated in the High Court. In the meanwhile, status quo, as of date, with regard to the land in question shall be maintained by both the parties.”

Police personnel deployed at Chamarajpet Eidgah Maidan, following Hindu organizations demands to celebrate Ganesha festival at the ground. (Express photo by Jithendra M)

“Why not have status quo? Hold puja somewhere else. Go back to HC,” Justice Banerjee said after hearing the appellants, who challenged the Karnataka HC order allowing the state to take suitable decisions on petitions seeking permission to hold Ganesh puja on the ground, as well as the state.

Earlier in the day, the matter was heard by a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia who referred it to a three-judge bench as the two judges could not concur. “There is a slight difference of opinion, we refer it to a three-judge bench,” the two judges said while referring the matter.

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During the hearing before the two-judge bench, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the state government, said the state had given permission to use the ground for Ganesh Utsav celebrations “temporarily” for August 31 and September 1. The state government also undertook to ensure that it would not result in any law and order problem.

Citing this, Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Dushyant Dave, representing the appellants, immediately took this up with Chief Justice of India U U Lalit and urged him to constitute a three-judge bench Tuesday itself.

To a specific query from the bench, Sibal responded that no such festival was allowed on the land for the past 200 years. He said the balance of convenience is in his favour as for 200 years they never held anything there. He said that a 1964 Supreme Court ruling was also in favour of the appellants.

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He said records as far back as 1871 point to a graveyard on the ground and that in June 1965, the Mysore Waqf Board declared it to be Waqf property.

Sibal said the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) never challenged this position but later filed a suit for permanent injunction saying the land was mentioned in revenue records as government property.

He contended that the developments “reek of something”.

Dave said the Waqf Act of 1995 overrides every other law and the state is denuded of any authority to deal with waqf properties. If there is any property lying under any state agency, they are under obligation to give it to the board or mutawalli within six months of order of the tribunal, he said, adding it is completely outside the state’s jurisdiction to touch these properties.

He said the Constitution “expressly gives minorities the right to administer their properties” and said “don’t give this impression to the minorities that their rights can be trampled upon”.

“I wonder if in any temple in the country, members of the minority community will be allowed to enter and offer prayers,” he said, adding that the Places of Worship Act, 1991, bars the conversion of religious character of a place of worship.

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Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state, responded that it was not a mosque but a piece of land.

To a query from the bench why should celebrations be allowed now when it is admitted that no such festivities were allowed there in the last 200 years, Rohatgi said that was not reason enough to say nothing should be held in the future.

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He said the Waqf Board never had the title to the land. “For last 200 years, this land is used as a playground by children and all revenue entries are in favour of the state,” he said, adding the Muslim parties were only given congregational rights to pray there two days in a year.

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First published on: 31-08-2022 at 12:11:28 am
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