The Delhi High Court on Thursday said that 50 devotees may offer prayers at the Nizamuddin Markaz mosque five times a day during Ramzan, Bar and Bench reported. The court added that those offering prayers will have to follow coronavirus-related safety guidelines.
The court noted that the coronavirus situation in the Capital was grim, but since other religious places were open, the mosque could not remain shut.
The Nizamuddin Markaz building has been locked since March 31 last year, when it was vacated following a congregation by religious group Tablighi Jamaat in the initial months of the pandemic. The group was also accused back then for the rise in Covid-19 cases in India.
On Thursday, the High Court heard the Delhi Waqf Board’s petition to open the premises. The board argued that even though all religious places outside containment zones were allowed to open, the mosque remained closed.
The Delhi Waqf Board requested the court to allow four floors of the mosque to open. However, the court only granted permission for one.
The Centre had on Tuesday told the court that the mosque could not be opened for prayers as the Delhi Disaster Management Authority has prohibited gatherings and congregations since April 10 due to the massive surge in coronavirus cases. A day before that, the government said that devotees could be allowed inside the mosque, NDTV reported.
India is in the middle of the second wave of the coronavirus. The country recorded over 2 lakh new coronavirus cases on Thursday – a record high since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. India’s overall count of cases since the outbreak rose to 1,40,74,564. The toll rose to 1,73,123 as 1,038 deaths were recorded in the last day.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government announced a weekend curfew amid the surge in infections.
The Tablighi Jamaat congregation
The Tablighi Jamaat congregation that took place at the Nizamuddin Markaz was blamed for thousands of coronavirus infections around the country in the initial weeks of the nationwide lockdown, which began on March 25, 2020. The event had renewed stigma against Muslims, triggering a wave of business boycotts and hate speech towards them.
The Tablighi Jamaat is a Sunni Muslim sect with followers in over 80 countries.
In June, the Centre had blacklisted over 2,500 Tablighi members and prohibited their entry into the country 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-19 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 not placing curbs on television programmes.