Joint inspection of 150-year-old mosque done, religious committee seized of demolition issue: NDMC to HC

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) told the Delhi High Court on Monday that a joint inspection was carried out during which it was observed that the 150-year-old mosque at the Sunehri Bagh Road roundabout is required to be removed and the land has to used for safe and smooth flow of traffic.

The NDMC said the matter is also pending for consideration before the religious committee under the chairmanship of Delhi government’s Secretary (Home).

Justice Prateek Jalan asked the NDMC to place on record its counter affidavit filed in response to a petition by the Delhi Waqf Board anticipating the demolition of the mosque.

It also extended the interim order directing the authorities to maintain status quo and asked them to place before the court the report of the religious committee, once it is made available.

The high court, which was hearing the plea that sought restraining the NDMC from causing any harm to the mosque, listed the matter for further hearing on October 6.

The NDMC, in its reply, said it acted upon the letter of the Delhi traffic police in view of the increase in traffic, and the joint inspection was carried out twice. The officials concerned unanimously concluded that the religious structure is required to be removed/relocated, it said.

It said it was observed that the land is required to be utilised for redesigning the roundabout and for safe and smooth flow of traffic.

“Further, there is no other adequate feasible option but to utilise the piece of the land after removal of the religious structure in the larger public interest. The petition is liable to be declined and the petition may be dismissed,” the reply said.

The NDMC said the area falls in the high security zone, being in close proximity to central government offices, Parliament, the central vista project and offices of high-ranked officers of defence forces.

Due to the movement of high officials, defence forces and foreign dignitaries, the heavy traffic congestion on this roundabout, and also in the adjoining area, has become a matter of serious concern, it said.

Advocate Wajeeh Shafiq, representing petitioner Delhi Waqf Board, had earlier said the existence of the mosque was not the cause of traffic in the area and the intimation of inspection was received by the board at less than 24-hour 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 July 3, 2023,” the petition has said.

However, NDMC claimed in the reply that the June 26 inspection letter was duly served upon the petitioner and it was also delivered at the mosque well within the time but the board chose not to remain present at the time of inspection on June 28.

The petition has also claimed that recently several waqf properties have been “demolished overnight in a brazen display of highhandedness” and without following the legal procedure.

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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 said.

“The photographs taken by the technical team of the petitioner on July 3, 2023, that is, 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.

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