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Restricting entry into mosque: HC grants interim stay on Jalgaon collector’s order

Aurangabad: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted an interim stay for two weeks on the Jalgaon district collector’s order restraining people from praying at a mosque on a complaint by an outfit which claimed the structure has the “appearance of a temple”.

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A single bench of Justice R M Joshi of the Aurangabad bench of the HC issued notice to the respondents in the plea and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

Until then the impugned order (passed by the district collector) is stayed, the bench said while hearing the petition filed by Jumma Masjid Trust Committee.

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An outfit, Pandavwada Sangharsh Samiti, had claimed the concerned structure resembles a temple and it was being encroached upon by Muslims.

However, the trust panel which maintains the mosque claimed to possess records to show the existence of the structure at least since 1861.

The trust panel filed a petition in the high court through its president Altaf Khan challenging the collector’s order passed on July 11, 2023.

The trust claimed the collector’s order ordered directing them to hand over keys of the mosque to the Erandol municipal council’s chief officer was “arbitrary and illegal”.

The order was passed under sections 144 and 145 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as per which the status quo shall be maintained pending a final decision on the dispute of the land.

As per the plea, the mosque has been in existence for decades and the Maharashtra government had declared the structure of the masjid as an ancient and historical monument, which is enlisted in the schedule of protected monuments.

The petitioner stated the trust committee has been taking utmost care and no complaint was received in that regard by the Archaeological Department, or even the state government.

In May this year, the Pandavwada Sangharsh Samiti in order to create disturbance in Jalgaon’s Erandol taluka, submitted an application to the district collector claiming the ancient monument is having the “appearance of a mandir” and therefore the occupation of the Muslim community must be vacated, the plea said.

The Samiti had demanded that the “illegal construction” made by the petitioner trust be removed and a madrasa (Islamic seminary) run by trustees be not allowed.

Pursuant to the complaint, the collector issued a notice to the petitioner trust on June 14, directing the trustees to remain present on June 27 for a hearing.

The plea claimed the trustees appeared before the collector’s office but since he was busy that day, no hearing took place.

On a later date, the petitioner trust sought time from the collector to go through the complaint and file its response, the plea said.

“The learned Collector was not in a mood to hear anything from the petitioner thereafter and without giving any opportunity to the petitioner on 11.07.2023, the Collector, Jalgaon, passed an order under Sections 144 and 145 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” the plea said.

As per the order, only two persons are allowed to offer namaz in the mosque currently and no one else can enter, Kazi said.

The plea claimed the collector’s order was arbitrary, illegal and passed in haste without granting the petitioner an opportunity to put forth its case.

It requested the HC to quash and set aside the collector’s order.

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