HC grants Centre time to respond to Delhi Waqf Board’s plea for preservation of its properties

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday granted time to the Centre to state its stand on a plea by Delhi Waqf Board seeking preservation and protection of its heritage properties that are likely to be impacted by the Central Vista Redevelopment Project.

Justice Prateek Jalan noted there was no statement on record by the central government till date on the petition which was filed in 2021.

Central government counsel said “nothing was happening” in relation to the properties and sought time from the court to take further instructions.

There is no concrete sense of whether anything has happened or is likely to happen, the judge told the Centre’s lawyer, adding the “petition goes” if a statement is made that the case is only based on an apprehension.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on December 8 and asked the counsel for the petitioner to seek instructions after she said she was not aware of the status of waqf properties.

In its petition, the Delhi Waqf Board has sought preservation and protection of six of its properties in the area where the redevelopment work was going on, namely Masjid Zabta Ganj on Mansingh Road, Jama Masjid on Red Cross Road, Masjid Sunehri Bagh near Udyog Bhawan, Mazar Sunehri Bagh Road behind Moti Lal Nehru Marg, the mosque inside the Krishi Bhawan compound and the one at the official residence of the Vice President of India.

Claiming that the six properties “are more than an ordinary mosque and have a distinction attached to them”, the petition says neither the British government nor the Government of India ever created any hindrance in the observance of religious practices at these properties which were always preserved.

“The waqf properties, subject matter of the present petition, are all more than 100 years old and are continuously being used for religious purpose. It is not the case that the Government Buildings were built first and thereafter these properties came into existence, to the contrary, these properties were well in existence when the Government buildings were constructed around them or in the vicinity,” the petition filed through lawyer Wajeeh Shafiq has claimed.

In December 2021, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had told the high court that “nothing is happening” to Delhi Waqf Board properties in the vicinity and said being a “long plan”, the redevelopment has not reached the properties in question.

The high court had then adjourned the hearing, saying it has “full faith” in the solicitor general and turned down the request of the petitioner’s senior lawyer to take the statement on record.

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