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HomeNews ReportsDelhi High Court quashes petition to perform night-long Shab-e-Barat prayers at demolished 600-year-old Akhoondji...

Delhi High Court quashes petition to perform night-long Shab-e-Barat prayers at demolished 600-year-old Akhoondji Mosque location in Mehrauli

The Delhi HC refused permission for prayers at the recently demolished 'Akhoondji mosque' and the nearby graveyard in Mehrauli on the occasion of 'Shab-e-Barat' because the had ordered to maintain status quo

The Delhi High Court on 23rd February refused to permit prayers at the recently demolished ‘Akhoondji mosque’ and the nearby graveyard in Mehrauli on the occasion of ‘Shab-e-Barat’ (the 15th night of the eighth month of the Islamic calendar). Muslims pray to Allah on Shab-e-Barat (the night of atonement) to pardon their sins and the misdeeds of their ancestors.

A single-judge bench of Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav after hearing an application from the Delhi Waqf Board managing committee observed that the court had instructed the site to remain in the status quo and that the location was currently in possession of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The Behrul Uloom Madrasa and the ‘Akhoondji mosque’ which was believed to be over 600 years old were razed by the government body on 30th January after being ruled unlawful structures in the Sanjay Van area. The DDA mentioned that the mosque was constructed during the Delhi Sultanate era.

The petitioner sought clearance for residents to utilize the site for 30 minutes before sunset on 25th February to 30 minutes after sunrise on the next day. Judge Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav, however, tossed the request, stating that the court was in session at the moment and that the primary writ petition was due on 7th March. In light of the current situation, the court declined to issue any directives at the moment.

The judge pronounced, “It is to be noted that the prayer in question as has been made in the application relates to the nature of the mandatory injunction. Respondents in their status report have stated that the structure has already been demolished and the order of status quo granted by this court is being maintained. Admittedly as of now, the site is in the possession of the Delhi Development Authority and this court is seized with the main writ petition which is to be heard on March 7. At this stage, the court under the facts of the present case is not inclined to pass any direction. Accordingly, the application stands dismissed.”

On 5th February, the Delhi High Court ordered the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to maintain the site’s current status quo. The applicant has filed a case against the DDA’s action which the court is scheduled to hear on 7th March. According to the managing committee, which was represented through counsel Shams Khwaja, the former mosque was still in use and locals had been celebrating ‘Shab-e-Barat’ there for decades. However, he contended that the visitation would not confer any rights upon them and DDA had engaged in “illegal and unlawful action in demolishing the 600-year-old masjid with the assistance of law enforcement agencies.”

Presenting through attorney Sanjay Katyal, the DDA stated that the property was located in the Ridge area. He added that the civic agency had reclaimed roughly 5,000 square meters by demolishing 77 mazars (mausoleums), Shahi Masjid, a madrasa, a graveyard and a temple close to gate number 4. Additionally, he stated that on 21st February, the court denied the application for the appointment of a local commissioner, even though the committee had recommended it.

Attorney Yoginder Handoo argued that permitting residents to access the site would cause issues because the court had ordered DDA to maintain the status quo. He noted, “Status quo has been granted and in the garb of this they will claim further rights.”

The status quo only pertains to this particular property and Justice Sachin Datta had made it clear that the DDA can take action against other illegal structures. Advocate Sham Khwaja, the petitioner’s lawyer, had contended that there was insufficient notification given to the mosque’s demolition, highlighting the mosque’s 600–700-year historical significance. He claimed that throughout the process, copies of the Quran were damaged and the madrasa and graveyard were destroyed. The petitioner argued that the committee lacked the authority to issue any demolition orders.

Sanjay Katyal, DDA Standing Counsel, refuted the allegations and guaranteed that the holy books would remain secure in the hands of the officials. Citing the mosque’s encroachment on forest property, he asserted that the mosque’s demolition followed the Religious Committee’s recommendations on 4th January. The chief executive officer (CEO) of the Delhi Waqf Board was given the opportunity to be heard by the religious committee before the decision was made, according to the DDA.

The court had requested that DDA submit a reply on 31st January that included a detailed explanation of the steps taken and their justifications with regard to the property in question. Afterwards, it imposed the status quo after hearing both sides.

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