J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to interfere with the judgment of the Karnataka High Court that the Anjuman-e-Islam can use the Hubli Idgah Maidan, only for religious purposes and not for commercial activity.

A Bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice A.K. Patnaik dismissed an appeal filed by the Anjuman-e-Islam and the Wakf Board challenging the High Court judgment.

Not Anjuman’s property

The High Court had held that the Idgah Maidan was not the exclusive property of the Anjuman-e-Islam but belonged to what was by then the Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC).

The maidan was licensed to the Anjuman for purely religious purposes, “that is, to offer prayers on two days in a year, the Bakrid and the Ramzan.”

The Anjuman might not use the property for any educational or commercial purposes.

The permanent structures already erected by the Anjuman had to be demolished, the High Court said. On appeal the Supreme Court stayed the demolition.

During the course of hearing of the appeal, the court had asked the Commissioner of the HDMC to convene a meeting of the representatives of the Anjuman-e-Islam and local Hindus to find out whether a compromise was possible on the issue of offering prayers at the Idgah and construction of a school in the maidan. The Commissioner filed a report that no compromise could be reached. Thereafter the court proceeded to hear the appeal on merits.

The appellant had filed a case in a Munsif court claiming that the maidan had been leased to it from 1930 for 999 years for religious worship.

It lost the case all the way from the Munsif court to the district court and then the High Court.

During the resumed hearing on Wednesday, counsel for the appellant Rajesh Mahale contended that the land was leased for 999 years and the finding of the High Court that it was only a licence was erroneous.

Mr. Justice Patnaik pointed out that the fact that only one-rupee rent was collected for one year would show that it was only a licence, otherwise it was unconscionable that the appellant could get the lease for a rupee.

He said: “It is only a licence and the land could be used only for religious purposes. ”

Mr. Justice Bhandari told counsel “why should we interfere when three courts below are against you.”