The Delhi High Court on Friday sought the stand of the New Delhi Municipal Council and police on a petition by the Delhi Waqf Board anticipating the demolition of a 150-year-old mosque at the Sunehri Bagh Road roundabout, and directed that status quo be maintained till August 14.
Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice on the plea, which sought to restrain the NDMC from causing any harm to the mosque, and asked the parties to carry out a joint inspection at the site.
The judge said the matter has to be approached in a "practical" and "holistic" manner with both sides taking a reasonable view and asked the authorities to file their response.
Indigenous properties have no immunity from acquisition as long as statutory conditions are met, the judge said, adding that his conscience has to be "satisfied" that "all religious structures are treated equally and policy on religious structures are applied equally".
"Issue notice. The parties are directed to hold a joint inspection on July 12, 2023 at 3 pm and may fix further inspection as deemed necessary. NDMC is at liberty to give notice of inspection to any other authority," the court said.
"The respondents will file response to the petition and necessary record in two weeks. Report of joint inspection be also placed," it ordered.
As the counsel for the petitioner urged the court to direct maintenance of status quo, the counsel for the NDMC said the apprehension with respect to demolition of the mosque in the near future is misplaced.
Taking the stand on record, the court, during the hearing, asked the NDMC to approach it in case of any change.
In its order passed in the matter, the court directed," Status quo be maintained in respect of the property in question until the next date of hearing. List on 14.08.2023."
Advocate Wajeeh Shafiq, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the authorities carried out an inspection at the site without their presence on the basis of a letter from the traffic police asking the NDMC to examine the feasibility of redesigning the Sunehri Bagh roundabout in view of issues related to increased traffic at the location of the mosque.
The lawyer argued that the existence of the mosque was not the cause of traffic in the area and the intimation of inspection was received by the board on less than 24 hours' notice.
"By the time the said staff reached the spot, the purported joint inspection was over. However, from the Imam of the mosque it is learnt that the respondents have inspected the mosque and instead of adopting other measures, the respondents are going to demolish the mosque under reference in the week commencing from 03.07.2023," the petition said.
The petition claimed that recently several Waqf properties have been "demolished overnight in a brazen display of highhandedness" and without following the legal procedure.
There is a clear and apparent danger of demolition of the mosque under reference in a malafide and arbitrary manner, it said.
"The modus operandi is that a Waqf property, even if it is century old, is marked as obstructing right of way or the movement of traffic and soon thereafter, in a surreptitious manner, a decision is taken to remove it. The Waqf property/religious structure is then cordoned off and is razed either in wee hours or in the dead of night in the presence of heavy policy force or paramilitary force," the petition said.
It said the mosque, which has been "in existence from at least more than 150 years", was popular and it caters to a large number of worshippers.
"All five times compulsory prayers, Friday prayers and Eid Prayers are offered at the mosque under reference. A regular Imam and a Muazzin is assigned to the mosque under reference by the petitioner," it informed.
"The photographs taken by the technical team of the petitioner on 03.07.2023, i.e., a Monday, clearly demonstrate that the congestion is not because of the roundabout, on which the mosque under reference is situated, but because of the uncontrolled parking of vehicles on the both carriage ways of Motilal Nehru Marg," the plea claimed.
The matter would be heard next on August 14.
-With PTI Input