The story so far: The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has taken over 123 properties belonging to the Delhi Waqf Board. It includes many historic mosques, medieval dargahs and cemeteries. Following a Delhi High Court order, a committee was formed by the government to study the status of these monuments. The two-member committee headed by Justice (retired) S.P. Garg submitted in its report that no representation or objection was received by it from the Delhi Waqf Board. Accordingly, these properties lapsed into the hands of the Central government.
Why has then the Delhi Waqf Board gone to court?
The Delhi Waqf Board disputed the committee’s contention, arguing that it had resulted in “widespread panic, fear and resentment” among the Muslim community. Waqf Board Chairman Amanatullah Khan, who is also an Aam Aadmi Party MLA, claimed the report had not been shared with the Waqf Board, and that there was no direction by the High Court to constitute a two-member committee in its order back in 2014. The Waqf Board has approached the Delhi High Court for redressal.
Almost two weeks after the properties ‘allegedly’ lapsed into the hands of the Centre, the Waqf Board challenged the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ letter which “absolves” the Board from matters pertaining to the said properties in the High Court. “The 123 properties belong to the Delhi Waqf Board. These mosques, dargahs, cemeteries… they are being taken care of by us. These properties are under our care and will remain so. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has written to us saying we have no right over this property… we have challenged this letter, which was sent to us on February 8, in the High Court,” Mr. Khan told the media. He also claimed that the Board had gone to the High Court in January this year challenging the formation of a two-member committee for these properties. Even as the petition was pending before the court, the two-member committee’s report came out.
Are the properties in use?
Most worshippers at the mosques and dargahs were not aware of the change of ownership of the properties until the Land and Development Office under the Housing Ministry started pasting notices to the effect outside these properties on February 17 this year. The notices, addressed to ‘occupants’ of the said properties, were for a survey of the place. Significantly, they did not mention the properties as mosques or dargahs, etc, nor did the notices call the addressee as the owner or possessor of the property. Things came out into the public domain when the boundary wall of the Babur Road Masjid-Madrasa compound was demolished in April this year. It was followed by a notice to the Masjid Takia Shah in the vicinity. The compound with a centuries-old a mosque and dargah was claimed to be a railway property.
What is the stand of the Waqf Board?
The Waqf Board which had gone to court in February following the de-listing of 123 properties, and asked for a halt to the surveys being conducted, filed a fresh application after the demolition of the boundary wall of the mosque-madrasa complex at Babur Road. The Delhi High Court, however, allowed the survey to continue. It did direct the authorities to ensure minimal disruption in day-to-day affairs at the properties, including non-disturbance of prayer timings. The court’s oral observation about non-disturbance of prayer timings came after the Waqf Board alleged that despite the fact that the matter was subjudice, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had started sending its employees to visit the Waqf properties, along with the police, who were affixing and distributing the notices or letters at the properties, including mosques, during prayers.
What is the Housing Ministry doing?
Last month, a notice for a survey was pasted outside New Delhi’s Jama Masjid opposite Parliament House. Against the Waqf Board’s wishes, the survey was carried out at the mosque on August 21. A day earlier, a portion of the Mamu-Bhanje dargah was demolished as it allegedly infringed on a public road. The shrine’s caretaker, however, claimed the dargah is among the 123 de-notified properties where a court case is going on. A part of the shrine was demolished after a notice was sent out on August 18. The authorities claimed this portion was built on encroached land.
After Mamu-Bhanje dargah, the Pandara Road mosque near Khan Market has also been surveyed. Also surveyed was the Sunehri Bagh Masjid located barely two kilometres from the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
What has the Centre said in court?
Through its counsel, the Centre opposed the Waqf Board’s plea against inspection of the properties under question, and claimed that the Delhi Waqf Board is not and cannot be the owner of any of the 123 properties and at best could only be a custodian, that too only if it’s a Waqf property. “Merely because certain properties were given on lease to various persons, does not ipso-facto mean that the said properties are converted into Waqf properties,” the counsel reasoned in the High Court.
The survey of some of the leading mosques and dargahs continues for now though the graveyards have not been touched yet.
- The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has taken over 123 properties belonging to the Delhi Waqf Board. It includes many historic mosques, medieval dargahs and cemeteries.
- Following a Delhi High Court order, a committee was formed by the government to study the status of these monuments.
- The two-member committee submitted in its report that no representation or objection was received by it from the Delhi Waqf Board. Accordingly, these properties lapsed into the hands of the Central government.