Take no action on notice to mosques for encroachment: Delhi HC to Railways

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Railways not to take any action pursuant to its notices pasted on two mosques on Tilak Marg and Babar Road for removal of “unauthorised” structures and “encroachment” from its land.

Justice Prateek Jalan granted time to the central government counsel, on his request, to take instructions on the petition by the Delhi Waqf Board which claimed that the notices were “generic” and the two mosques Masjid Takia Babbar Shah near Railway Bridge on Tilak Marg and Masjid Bachchu Shah on Babar Marg, which is also known as Bengali Market Mosque, are not unauthorised and the land does not belong to the Railways.

The court observed that the notices were not signed, did not mention the authority under which they were issued, and could be pasted on any structure.

“What kind of a notice is this? Some generic thing is it being posted everywhere? The way it reads, it can be posted on any (building). It does not refer to any building, no date, no nothing,” the court remarked.

“It appears that the notice is a generic notice purportedly issued by the Railway Administration, Northern Railways, Delhi which calls upon the public to voluntarily remove temples/mosques/mazars from railway land within 15 days failing which they would be removed by the railway administration.

“The said notices are unsigned, undated and do not bear out the authority under which they are issued. For the moment, no action will be taken pursuant to these notices,” ordered the court.

The central government lawyer said he would take “clear instructions” on the issue, and added, the two mosques form part of the 123 delisted properties that have been taken over by the Centre from the petitioner.

The court granted time to the Centre’s counsel to take instructions on whether the notices were issued by the railways in their current form.

Advocate Wajeeh Shafiq, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that on July 19 and 20, notices were found pasted on the mosques which have been in existence for decades and upon inquiry it was found they had been issued from the office of the Divisional Railway Manager.

The notices do not bear any file number, date, signature, name or post of the person issuing it, he said.

Apprehending action by the Railways, Shafiq urged the court to “bind the hands” of the authorities in the meantime.

The petition said the Bengali Market Mosque was approximately 250 years and the Tilak Marg Mosque 400 years old, and the notices affixed to their walls were liable to be quashed.

“Both the mosques have been in existence for centuries and there are two duly registered agreements of 1945 between the Governor General in Council through its agent – Chief Commissioner of Delhi and the Sunni Majlis Auqaf in respect of both the mosques transferring management of those mosques to the Sunni Majlis Auqaf [petitioner’s predecessor] without any limitation as to tenure. The said document shows that the Mosques were in existence and were operational in 1945 also,” the petition said.

It said that the Railways in their notices asked the mosques to be removed from the land within 15 days.

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“Thus, the very existence of the aforesaid waqf property is in jeopardy because of the unwarranted, arbitrary and unreasonable impugned action of the respondents,” it said.

The petition further said that the two mosques cater to a large number of worshippers who offer their prayers five times every day and that they also accommodate bigger congregations on Fridays and Eid.

“Neither the land underneath the mosques under reference belongs to the respondents nor the Mosques under reference are unauthorised,” it asserted.

The petitioner also said that in 2023 alone, at least seven waqf properties have been demolished overnight in a “brazen display of highhandedness” and in the present case, the apprehension is that the “design is to demolish the mosques/waqf properties somehow.”

The matter would be heard next on August 3.

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