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2021 Markaz congregation: Delhi Police moves HC seeking details of ownership of Banglewali Masjid

New Delhi: The city police has moved to the Delhi High Court seeking a direction to the Delhi Waqf Board to produce documents related to the ownership of Nizamuddin Banglewali Masjid where the Tablighi Jamaat congregation was held in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Delhi police filed the application on a petition by the Board to reopen the Nizamuddin Markaz comprising the Masjid, Madarsa Kashif-ul-Uloom and the attached hostel following its closure after the onset of the pandemic.

In May, the high court had passed an interim order allowing certain areas of the Markaz, which were closed following the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, to reopen.

The Central government, in its affidavit, opposed reopening the premises completely.

The police, in its application, said the petition was filed by the Waqf Boad claiming possession of the property in its capacity as the custodian but “no supporting document has been filed by the petitioner to claim locus or that the property is a waqf property”.

It said before the petition is disposed of, it is just and necessary that the rightful owner/possessor of the “alleged waqf property” is brought on record so that suitable orders may be passed with respect to its maintainability.

The application also seeks directions to another applicant in the matter, a member of the managing committee of the premises, to disclose documents with respect to the mutations or ownership of property.

“It is submitted that till date neither the petitioner nor the applicant has either replied to the said notice nor has placed any documents before this Hon’ble Court either showing their locus standi/title of possession or their right to possess and administer the said waqf property,” the application said.

The application also seeks production of the sanction plan of the property as well as the copy of any notices issued by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi with regard to any violation of the building plan or illegal construction, and if any action has been taken.

It also seeks a report on how safe and secure the building is in terms of structural stability and other safety norms.

Several FIRs were registered under the Epidemic Diseases Act, the Disaster Management Act, the Foreigners Act and various provisions of the penal code in connection with the Tablighi Jamaat event held at the Nizamuddin Markaz and the subsequent stay of foreigners there during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

The Delhi Waqf Board had moved the court in 2021 seeking directions to reopen the premises on the ground that even after unlock-1 guidelines permitted religious places outside containment zones to be opened, the Markaz continues to be locked up.

In its affidavit affirmed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime, the Centre told the court it was “necessary and incumbent” to preserve the markaz property as the investigation in the case registered for violation of the COVID-19 protocols has “cross borders implications and involves nation’s diplomatic relationship with other countries”.

The Waqf Board, represented by lawyer Wajeeh Shafiq, had earlier argued that the mosque, which was under the lock of Delhi Police, should be opened as the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has now lifted all restrictions that were imposed on account of the pandemic.

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