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Delhi High Court Allows Reopening Of Four Floors Of Masjid In Nizamuddin Markaz On Shab-e-Barat

Nupur Thapliyal
16 March 2022 12:36 PM GMT
Delhi High Court Allows Reopening Of Four Floors Of Masjid In Nizamuddin Markaz On Shab-e-Barat
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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday allowed reopening of four floors, including Ground floor as well as three floors, of the masjid premises in Nizamuddin Markaz for offering of prayers on the festival of Shab e-Barat.Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri however removed the Delhi Police's restriction of only permitting 100 people inside Masjid to offer namaz by ordering that the management will ensure...

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday allowed reopening of four floors, including Ground floor as well as three floors, of the masjid premises in Nizamuddin Markaz for offering of prayers on the festival of Shab e-Barat.

Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri however removed the Delhi Police's restriction of only permitting 100 people inside Masjid to offer namaz by ordering that the management will ensure that while allowing the devotees on a particular floor, the COVID protocols and social distancing norms will be followed.

Public entry was banned at the Nizamuddin Markaz in the aftermath of Tablighi Jamaat members testing positive for Covid-19 in 2020.

The Court was dealing with an application in the petition moved by the Delhi Waqf Board seeking to ease restrictions at the Nizamuddin Markaz, which has been locked since March 31, 2020.

On the last date of hearing, the Centre had assured the Court that it will consider fairly, if an application is made by the Delhi Waqf Board for reopening of masjid premises in Nizamuddin Markaz for offering of prayers during the festival of Shab e-Barat.

Accordingly, the Delhi Police in it's report stated that the Ground as well as Three floors of Masjid Bangley Wali will be reopened at 12 PM one day before 'Shab E Baraat' and will be closed on the next day of 'Shab E Baraat' at 4 PM.

The Court today heard Senior Advocate Sanjoy Ghose, appearing for Delhi Waqf Board, Senior Advocate Rebecca John appearing for the Managing Committee and Rajat Nair appearing for the Centre.

During the course of hearing, John objected to one of the conditions put in by the Police stating that Foreign citizens and OCI card holders will not be allowed inside the Markaz premises, however, if some devotee of the foreign origin or OCI Card holder intends or insists to offer Namaj at Masjid Bangley Wali, then his identity details will be taken by management and will be submitted to SHO.

Regarding the said condition, it was therefore agreed that the management of masjid would put a display board at the entry gates of the Masjid specifying the restrictions therein.

It was also agreed that the opening of the masjid premises shall be restricted only for purpose of offering namaaz and religious prayers.

Regarding the condition that will be a separate register on main entry gate for maintaining record of the devotees, Nair submitted that the same shall be deleted.

For another condition specifying that CCTV cameras will be installed by the management committee on all entry and exit gates and other places or floors under the close supervision of local police, the Court stated that since such are already installed, there will be no further cctv cameras installed.

On the condition specifying that only Ground and Three floors will be allowed for prayers of the Masjid Bangley Wali during Shab E Baraat, the same was objected by the petitioner on the ground that as per the joint inspection, masjid premises consisted of additional floors. 

It was additionally agreed that at the entrance gate, volunteers of the management would spree the devotees with thermal scanners.

Accordingly, the Court granted petitioner the liberty to approach the Court in case of anu future grievance.

The Court had in November last year ordered for a joint inspection to be carried out at the Nizamuddin Markaz for the purpose of demarcation of the three areas namely the religious place (Masjid) where people offer namaz, the place where congregation take place and the residential area which has a hostel.

Earlier, the Centre had informed the Court that it was necessary to preserve the premises of Nizamuddin Markaz as the case involves cross border implications and diplomatic relations with other countries.

It also submitted that the petitioner's fundamental right under Article 26 of the Constitution was curtailed only for a short duration owing to the public order considerations and therefore cannot be said to be ultra vires the Constitution.

The petition stated that the central government vide its guidelines for the phased reopening of public places and facilities after the Covid-19 lockdown, known as "Guidelines for Unlock 1" dated May 30, 2020, allowed for the reopening of a list of religious places outside containment zones from Jun 8, 2020, yet the Hazrat Nizamuddin area was kept outside the list, as it was said to be in a containment zone.

However, even after it was removed from the list of containment zones in September 2020, the Waqf property was still locked.

It was submitted that the entire premise of the Markaz was locked by the local police after the registration of an FIR under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 against a congregation at the Markaz.

The Markaz which was locked on the pretext of getting the area sanitized, has remained shut since March 31, 2020, the plea elaborated.

The petitioner states that even if the premises is involved in any criminal investigation/trial, "instead of following a primitive method of keeping the entire premises under lock as an 'out of bound area' a modern or scientific method" should be adopted by the Delhi Police and government to ensure minimum interference with religious rights.

The board further said that its representations to the government and police in this regard were unanswered and therefore it was moving this petition, praying for a reassessment of the need for keeping the premises locked, adoption of scientific or advanced methods to secure the condition of interiors of the premises for investigation/ trial purposes, and a direction to the police and government to ensure minimum interference with the operation of the Markaz for religious purposes.

Case Title: DELHI WAQF BOARD Through its Chairman v. GOVERNMENT OF NCT OF DELHI & ANR

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