Will consider reopening Nizamuddin Markaz if Delhi Waqf Board files an application, Centre tells HC
The mosque has been closed since March 31, 2020, after a Tablighi Jamaat congregation that took place at the venue was blamed for thousands of Covid-19 cases.
The Union government on Monday told the Delhi High Court that it will consider reopening the Nizamuddin Markaz mosque to allow Muslims to offer prayers during Ramazan if the Delhi Waqf Board filed an application before the police, reported The Indian Express.
The Nizamuddin Markaz has been closed since March 31, 2020, after a Tablighi Jamaat congregation that took place at the venue was blamed for thousands of coronavirus infections around the country.
The religious conference had taken place on March 9 and March 10 in 2020 in Delhi’s densely populated Nizamuddin area. The countrywide lockdown was imposed in India on March 25 of the same year.
The Delhi Waqf Board had filed a petition in February last year seeking permission to open the premises. In the last hearing on March 4, the Centre had told the court that it can allow people to offer prayers on the first floor but the entire premises cannot be reopened. The court had then asked the government counsel to come up with clear instructions on the matter.
On Monday, lawyer Rajat Nair, representing the Centre, said that the government’s stand remained the same as on March 4 regarding the reopening of the entire premises, reported Live Law. Nair, however, said that he had no objections to increase the limit on number of people allowed to offer prayers from the earlier set figure of 50.
The counsel then referred to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation and alleged that the foreign attendees had violated visa norms.
However, the court said the matter was not relevant as the Waqf Board was seeking permission to reopen the mosque.
“Whatever you have shown is with respect to foreign nationals,” Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri said. “It is not those foreign nationals who want to offer prayers here.”
Nair said that some members of the Markaz management committee have been named as accused persons and a case was pending against them.
To this, Senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for the management committee, said that the police have not filed a chargesheet against the accused persons till date and that there was not a single proven case against them.
“Under what provision did they take the keys [of the mosque] away?” she asked. “There is no seizure memo either. We have been simply ousted from the premises.”
She added that the management committee would follow all guidelines issued for tackling the coronavirus crisis.
“Every religious institution has been opened,” she said. “Let there not be discriminatory restriction on Markaz masjid. No foreigners will be coming. We can give an undertaking that only Indian nationals will come.”
Senior Advocate Sanjoy Ghose, appearing for Delhi Waqf Board, said that authorities have inspected and captured a video of the entire mosque.
“They say it’s shut because its a case property,” Ghose said. “By that logic, the entire Rohini Court should be shut because of the shooting incident. It is astounding that the government is opposing a request like this.”
Nair then told the High Court that the petitioners have been provided remedy by the earlier bench hearing the case in April. He said that they can file an application before the police seeking the reopening of the remaining three floors.
The court then directed the petitioners to file the application. Nair told the High Court that the application would be considered expeditiously in accordance to the law.
The High Court also agreed to the request of the petitioners that the matter be heard on Wednesday if the police do not allow the mosque to be reopened, reported Bar and Bench.
The 2020 religious conference had renewed stigma against Muslims, triggering a wave of business boycotts and hate speech.
Several cases were filed against people who attended the congregation for reasons such as allegedly disobeying the government’s Covid-19 guidelines or violating the conditions of their visa. But courts have quashed most of the FIRs and acquitted the members.