The Barabanki administration in Uttar Pradesh has demolished a mosque in the district, saying that an “illegal residential complex” was found opposite the sub-divisional magistrate’s residence, reported The Hindu on Tuesday. The administration said that the complex was demolished on Monday on orders issued by the sub-divisional magistrate’s court.

The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board on Tuesday condemned the demolition and demanded the mosque be restored, calling it a “patently illegal and high-handed action”. The board said that the action was done on the pretext of removing encroachment.

In a statement, the board said that it will move the Allahabad High Court seeking the restoration of the mosque, a high-level judicial inquiry, and action against the “guilty officers”.

Zufar Faruqi, the chairperson of the Sunni Waqf Board, said that the mosque was 100 years old. “This act is against law, a misuse of power, and in utter violation of the clear orders dated April 24 passed by the [Allahabad] High Court,” Faruqi said.

The board’s chief was referring to an order passed by the Allahabad High Court on April 24, barring demolitions in the state till May 31. Taking in view of the surge in coronavirus cases, the High Court had said that any order of eviction, dispossession or demolition passed by the courts but not executed till the passing of this April 24 ruling should remain suspended.

District Magistrate Adarsh Singh said the stakeholders of the mosque were issued a notice on March 15 and asked to make submissions regarding ownership, following which residents of the complex had fled. He claimed the administration took control of the premises on March 18 because of security reasons.

The Waqf board said that no further communication was sent after this, reported The Times of India. The mosque, around the time the notice was issued, was closed for prayers and barricaded to stop the public from entering the premises.

The managing committee of the mosque had challenged the validity of the March 15 notice through a writ petition in the High Court, submitting that they were faced with “imminent danger of a demolition” of the mosque.

The High Court, however, had dismissed the petition on March 18, saying that the notice served to the petitioners was for seeking documentary evidence, and not for demolition. It had directed the managing committee to file a reply to the notice within 15 days, in addition to the one already filed.

A Bench of Justices Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Manish Kumar had added that after the reply is filed, the district administration will take a fresh decision on the matter.

The district magistrate claimed that after the petitioners submitted their replies on April 2, it was proven that the building was “illegal”. “On the basis of which a case was registered in the court of SDM Ram Sanehi Ghat,” Singh said in a statement, reported News18. “The judicial orders of the court have been implemented on 17-05-2021 [Tuesday].”