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Can't Reopen Entire Premises Of Nizamuddin Markaz, Few People Can Offer Prayers For Shab-e-Barat, Ramzan: Centre Tells Delhi High Court

Nupur Thapliyal
4 March 2022 12:30 PM GMT
Cant Reopen Entire Premises Of Nizamuddin Markaz, Few People Can Offer Prayers For Shab-e-Barat, Ramzan: Centre Tells Delhi High Court
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The Central Government on Friday informed the Delhi High Court that while few people can be permitted to offer prayers during the upcoming occasions of Shab-e-Barat and Ramzan festivals in the Nizamuddin Markaz, its entire premises cannot be reopened.Public entry was banned at the Nizamuddin Markaz in the aftermath of Tablighi Jamaat members testing positive for Covid-19 in...

The Central Government on Friday informed the Delhi High Court that while few people can be permitted to offer prayers during the upcoming occasions of Shab-e-Barat and Ramzan festivals in the Nizamuddin Markaz, its entire premises cannot be reopened.

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

Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri was dealing with an application filed 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.

The said application was filed by the Wafq Board seeking reopening of Masjid in the Nizamuddin Markaz commonly known as Masjid Bangle Wali owing to the upcoming festival of Shab e-Barat next month.

Last month, the Centre had informed the Court that the aspect of opening of Masjid in Nizamuddin Markaz will have to be done in terms of the order passed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).

During the course of hearing today, the petitioner counsel submitted that the DDMA had issued a fresh order dated February 26, 2022 withdrawing all the restrictions prevailing amid COVID 19 pandemic and therefore the masjid inside Markaz should be reopened for allowing people to offer prayers in view of Shab-e-Barat and Ramzaan.

However, Rajat Nair appearing on behalf of Central Government challenged the locus of the petitioner for seeking reopening of the mosque.

He said that earlier, permission was given to few people for offering of namaaz subject to some conditions and that he has no dispute if the same is also accepted this time.

"But if my learned friend is asking for re opening of entire premises then I have some submissions to make," Nair submitted.

He added "DDMA order was subsequent. Firstly we had objected to the re-opening of the premises. But since it was part of a religious place, religious processions were permitted. Five people were permitted to offer namaaz five times a day and on occasions such as Shab e baraat or holy month of ramzaan, few people were permitted pursuant to their verification by local SHO to offer namaaz. The same thing can be done this year also but if the argument is that the entire premises should be reopened, then we have some submissions to make."

The Court re-notified the matter for hearing next week while asking the counsel for the petitioner to place on record the order dated February 26, 2022 issued by DDMA.

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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