The Delhi High Court on Wednesday has given a nod to reopen the Nizamuddin Markaz which remained closed since March 2020 for a day on occasion of Shab-e-barat. It was the same site where the Tablighi Jamaat congregation was held which resulted in a mega-spreader of the Covid-19 virus in India, with attendees hiding from authorities and carrying the infection to almost all states in India.
The Single-member bench of Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri removed the restriction for a congregation liming only 100 people on one floor and has agreed to open the three floors at the Markaz. The Court has ordered the management to look after the strict obeyance of Covid-19 protocols and social distancing to be followed when devotees offer namaz on the campus. The decision came with Shab-e-Barat, the Islamic festival for the remembrance of ancestors is around the corner on March 18-19.
The Delhi High Court has permitted to open the ground floor and other three floors in the building at 12 PM on March 18, which will be closed at 4 PM the other day. This came as a response to an application filed by Delhi Waqf Board seeking to open the Markaz which opens up as a mass congregation space during Shab-e-Barat and during the month of Ramzan, commencing on April 2. The matter for re-opening the mosque during Ramzan has been listed for March 31.
The Court has addressed the issue of foreign nationals and OCI cardholders willing to offer prayers at the Mosque, and the condition remains that they will not be allowed to do so inside the Markaz premises. While the advocate for Delhi Police Rajat Nair argued that no Tablighi activities should be allowed to take place, it was later agreed that the Mosque will be only used for offering prayers.
The High Court before giving permission to the Delhi Waqf board had asked its lawyer Waqeeh Shafiq to file an application before the SHO of the Nizamuddin Police Station seeking permission to open the floors for the congregation at the Markaz. Citing High Court’s order on April 15, 2021, the Police was ready to allow 50 persons on the first floor of the Mosque and the same number at Masjid Bangley Wali to offer prayers five times a day. The Centre, in its recent affidavit, had also opposed the full re-opening of the Markaz on religious festivities.
In September, against the plea by the Waqf board to restore the full gathering at the Markaz, The Centre filed an affidavit asserting the premises are under a serious investigation following the outbreak of Covid-19 cases from the precinct all over the country in March 2020. “The present premises has been kept under lock and key in view of the fact that the organisers of Markaz and the masjid are under investigation in an FIR… and the said case is under investigation wherein notices have already been served seeking details of plot/plots related to Masjid Banglewali Markaz, Kashif-ul-Uloom madarsa, Basti Nizamuddin to provide ownership documents etc,” said the centre in its affidavit.
However, the Waqf board lawyer cited that the Omicron strain of Covid-19 was not as fatal as the earlier ones, and now that other spaces of public gathering have opened, there should be no impediment to direct reopening of this waqf property. The decision finally came in favour of the Waqf board with an understanding with the Delhi Police over the strict imposition of Covid-19 protocols.
Nizamuddin Markaz and coronavirus outbreak in 2020
In last week of March 2020, hundreds of Tablighi Jamaat attendees were found living inside the markaz, many of which were in violation of their visa rules. Many of the attendees were found to be covid-19 positive and despite showing symptoms had continued to stay there or move to interiors of country without getting themselves tested. Subsequently many were moved to quarantine centres to ensure treatment and arrest the spread of virus. However, even then, many Tablighi Jamaat attendees had attacked healthcare workers and even created ruckus at quarantine centres.