By LE Desk

New Delhi, April 6: The Delhi High Court Tuesday asked the Centre and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to inform it on Wednesday if it has plans to demolish the Lal Masjid, an ancient mosque situated near Lodhi Road in the national capital. The Delhi Waqf Board Tuesday sought the court’s intervention against any such demolition, saying police have informed the mosque’s imam to vacate the premises as it was going to be demolished.

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva adjourned the hearing of the case to Wednesday after the counsel representing the Centre and CRPF sought time to seek instructions. “I will give you as much time as you want, but don’t change the status. We will have it tomorrow, but you should not come tomorrow and say, ‘Sorry, we have demolished the building’. I will then haul up your officials for contempt,” observed the court, as reported by The Indian Express.

Senior advocate Sanjoy Ghose, representing the Board, told the court the matter is pending before the Waqf Tribunal, but the case has not been decided yet due to repeated adjournments and also because the statutory body is not functional, as two of the member-positions in it have remained vacant since December 2020. 

“The judicial member is there. The Delhi government has not performed its responsibility (of appointing two other members),” Ghose submitted.

Ghose further argued that if the mosque — which he said has been there for centuries — is demolished, it would be an irreparable injury. Seeking a status quo order from the court while members of the tribunal are appointed, he argued the Board has approached the court directly, as the tribunal which could decide the pending case is not functioning.

The petition, filed through advocate Wajeeh Shafiq, states that a Muslim graveyard, along with the masjid alongside Link Road at village Aliganj, had been declared as Waqf properties in 1970, but the graveyard has been taken over by the CRPF and the mosque alone is surviving at present. The dispute regarding the land in question has been pending before the tribunal since 2017, but due to the defect in constitution of the statutory body at present, the matter has been adjourned to July 29, it adds.

“Taking advantage of this situation, the respondents are trying to demolish an ancient mosque situated in the said property,” the petition contends, adding that construction of certain buildings at the graveyard is taking place in full swing, despite the pendency of the case before the tribunal.

The petition seeks a direction for reconstituting the tribunal as per the provisions of Waqf Act. The Delhi government Tuesday told the court that the matter regarding nomination of the tribunal’s members is pending at the ministerial level, and appointments are likely to be notified within four weeks. The counsel representing the Centre, earlier during the hearing, told the court that recently, an order has been passed by a civil court, holding that the land belongs to the government only and the Board does not have any say in the dispute.

As per the petition, the Centre, in a 2017 case related to the dispute, had told the High Court that the land has been allotted to CRPF, but the mosque and graves “are not being damaged and are preserved”. The land has been allotted to the CRPF by the Urban Development Ministry for construction of office accommodation, shifting of canteen, barracks for personnel and parking of vehicles, as per an official order attached with the petition. In October 2017, the Board approached the tribunal against the allotment of the land to the CRPF.

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