The Delhi High Court on Monday ordered the police to hand over the keys of the residential portion of the Nizamuddin Markaz to the mother of Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Muhammad Saad within two days, reported Bar and Bench.

The court also issued a notice to the Delhi government on the plea challenging a trial court order denying access to the residential part of the building to Saad’s mother, the petitioner in the case.

The Nizamuddin Markaz, comprising a residential area, a mosque and a Madrassa, has been closed since March 31 last year.

Many pro-government media channels and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders had blamed a Tablighi Jamaat congregation that took place at the venue of causing thousands of coronavirus infections around the country in the initial weeks of the pandemic as the people who attended the meeting returned to their homes across India.

The allegations, echoed widely on these pro-government channels, had renewed stigma against Muslims, triggering a wave of hate speech and boycotts of business.

During Monday’s hearing, Justice Yogesh Khanna clarified that the petitioner should not enter the other portions of the building until further orders, reported PTI. The court also observed that there has been no order to seal or seize the building.

The judge noted that that the 73-year-old petitioner was living in the premises with 11 family members.

“We cannot allow people to reside in guesthouses or any other place other than their own house,” the judge said.

The judge also raised questions on the laws enforced on the case. “What is section 60 [of Evidence Act on oral evidence], section 310 [Code of Criminal Procedure on local inspection]?” Judge Khanna asked the Delhi Police. “What sections have you put? Preserving a site does not mean you lock [it]. Take photos and move from the site. What was recovered? Case was only that people were residing there.”

Advocate Amit Ahlawat, the counsel for the Delhi government, said that the residents had violated coronavirus norms when the sections were invoked.

Senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for the Tablighi Jamaat chief’s mother, argued that the sections were not applicable in the case and that her client’s residence could not be taken away.

The Tablighi Jamaat chief’s mother had last year moved a magisterial court against the sealing of the residential part of the building. The court had allowed her plea, but a sessions court had stayed its proceedings after the police challenged the order. She had then moved the High Court.

In her petition before the High Court, she had said that the entire Nizamuddin Mosque had been vacated and locked for sanitisation and disinfection and the keys of the premises handed over to the Delhi Police.

The plea said that even after several months, the family members were not allowed to enter their own home. It added that the family were not even verbally told about any orders to seal the building.

The petitioner also alleged that the investigation in the FIR concerned was moving at a very slow pace. It added that even if any offence had been committed in the premises of the Markaz, the housing area is separate from it.

Action against Tablighi Jamaat members

After the religious congregation, the Centre in June blacklisted over 2,500 Tablighi members from other countries and prohibited their entry into India for 10 years. The action was taken after several state governments submitted information on those who had been accused of illegally living in mosques and seminaries.

Several cases were filed against people who attended the congregation for reasons such as allegedly disobeying the government’s Covid guidelines or violating the conditions of their visa. But courts have quashed most of the FIRs and acquitted the members. The Bombay High Court noted in August that foreign nationals had been made scapegoats.

The Supreme Court also criticised the media coverage of the matter, and pulled up the government for failing to place on television programmes.