Delhi HC protects Faizyab Masjid in Sarai Kale Khan from demolition, issues notice to DDA

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By Anwarulhaq Baig

NEW DELHI–In a big relief to another Islamic worship place in the national capital, the Delhi High Court has stepped in to protect the 40-year-old Faizyab Masjid and Madarsa, a registered Waqf property in Sarai Kale Khan near the ISBT bus depot, by issuing notices to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Delhi Religious Committee after the mosque filed a petition seeking urgent intervention to prevent its demolition.

The Delhi high court acted on Monday on a petition filed by the mosque’s caretaker through senior advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi. Justice Sachin Datta issued a notice to the respondents, including the Religious Committee and the DDA. The DDA claims ownership of the land where the waqf property is situated, citing acquisition proceedings.

However, Justice Datta directed the DDA to file a status report on the property within a week. The matter has been listed for the next hearing on May 8, during which time the respondents are prohibited from causing any harm to the mosque.

The matter came to light when, local police officials verbally informed the mosque’s administrators and caretaker about impending demolition plans earlier this month. In response, the caretaker of this Waqf property sent letters to the chairman of the Delhi Religious Committee and the Delhi Waqf Board. The letters included documents proving the property’s waqf status and land records. The caretaker cautioned them against taking any action, emphasizing that the land is not encroached upon and the mosque is a duly registered Waqf property. The mosque’s status as a place of worship has existed since its establishment.

In his petition, Deen Mohammad, the caretaker of the waqf property, submitted to the court that the Masjid and Madarsa have been in existence for over 40 years and are registered with the Delhi Waqf Board. Despite their legitimate status, the petition says they have received verbal notification from local police officials regarding impending demolition, without any formal communication or notice. However, the DDA has reportedly requested the Religious Committee to remove the structures, claiming the land is government property acquired through an award.

The petitioner has, therefore, invoked Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, alleging violations of Articles 14, 19, 21, 25, and 30, and sought a writ of mandamus directing the Religious Committee to grant a reasonable opportunity of hearing and consider the documents submitted before taking any decision.

According to the petition, the proceedings before the Religious Committee are likely to be a mere formality, as the same official who heads the committee also serves as the administrator of the Delhi Waqf Board, which currently lacks independent members. “The very same official who is heading the Religious Committee, is also Administrator of the Waqf Board rendering the proceedings before the Religious Committee to be an empty formality without considering the views and submissions of the affected parties,” the petition stated.

Demonstrating the continuous existence and recognition of the waqf property over years, the petition has provided a detailed timeline of the Faizyab Masjid and Madrasa’s history, highlighting its registered status as a waqf property since 1989. The petition states that the waqf was dedicated by Faiza, son of Kale, in 1972, and his son Mohd. Ishaaq was the mutawalli (caretaker) until his death, after which Deen Mohammed, son of Mohd. Ishaaq, took over the management of the waqf.

The petition contends that the waqf property has been continuously in use and possession for decades, even during redevelopment projects in the area.

Interestingly, the petition points out that during the redevelopment of the ISBT Sarai Kale Khan between 2006 and 2010, the waqf property remained untouched and was even included in the planning for the new construction, suggesting that the authorities had acknowledged its status as a legitimate religious structure. The petition has also submitted that the Delhi Waqf Board had issued a no-objection certificate in 1998 for the petitioner to obtain an electricity connection, and another permission letter in 2016 for a new electricity connection, further corroborating the waqf’s recognition by the authorities.

According to the petition, the Religious Committee was formed in 1991 with the specific mandate to deal with the removal of encroachments on public land in the form of unauthorized religious structures. Asserting that this is a private land and not an encroachment on a public property, the petition has cited the “well-settled position in law that ‘once a wakf, always a wakf'” and that such a permanent dedication of land to the Almighty cannot be changed by subsequent acts. The petition also notes that under the Waqf Act, 1995, the Central Waqf Council is the sole authority authorized to provide guidance to the government regarding waqf properties, and no committee has the power to make recommendations in this regard.

Meanwhile, a delegation from Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) recently visited the Faiziab Mosque in Sarai Kale Khan Bus Depot to learn more about the demolition threat circulating on social media. The JIH delegation expressed solidarity with the mosque’s administration and pledged to cooperate in legal proceedings. The delegation included JIH Secretary of the Department of Waqf Affairs Rafiq Ahmad, JIH Assistant Secretary Inamur Rahman, and JIH Media Secretary KK Sohail.

During their visit, the delegation reviewed the details of the situation and the actions taken by the mosque committee. They advocated for using legal means to protect the mosque’s rights and assured the administration of their full support in safeguarding their religious rights.

As Delhi’s mosques and Islamic monuments face repeated targeting by the DDA and Delhi’s religious committee, their cases unfolding in the Delhi High Court will be closely watched. The judiciary is under scrutiny to ensure justice is served and constitutional rights are upheld, particularly regarding religious freedom and property rights of minorities in India.

The case raises concerns about potential violations of the rights of waqf properties and the proper adherence to due process. Critics, Muslim leaders, and experts have already expressed apprehension over the Religious Committee’s actions and questioned its fairness, especially in matters involving registered waqf properties with a long history in the capital. This is because the Delhi NCT government’s Religious Committee, lacking full-time officials and office bearers from the Delhi Waqf Board, has been issuing verbal or written orders to remove or demolish even historically significant Islamic monuments, waqf registered properties, mosques, graveyards, tombs, and mausoleums recorded by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), claiming them to be encroachments. As the Delhi High Court takes up the matter in the coming weeks, the mosque managing committee hopes to secure a fair hearing and prevent the demolition of this decades-old religious building.

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