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Okay with reopening Nizamuddin Markaz for religious purposes, Delhi govt tells HC

The Delhi government on Wednesday told the Delhi high court that it is agreeable to reopening the Nizamuddin Markaz premises for religious purposes, after a plea was filed by the Delhi Waqf Board to open the building, which was kept “out of bounds” since March 31, 2020, after several people who attended a Tablighi Jamaat congregation there contracted the Covid-19.

Advocate Rahul Mehra, standing counsel for the Delhi government, told Justice Mukta Gupta that many of the foreigners who had attended the congregation in alleged violation of social distancing last year have either been acquitted or have been discharged.

He said the trials of the remaining people might take time and the court may pass appropriate orders to resume religious activities on the premises since all places of worship were allowed to reopen last June itself.

The submissions were made on the plea by the Delhi Waqf Board, through advocate Wajeeh Shafiq, who had sought that the entire premises, including the masjid, madrassa and hostel, be allowed to be opened.

The petitioner said the police can make necessary arrangements to take photographs, prepare sketches, among others, to collect any evidence for the criminal case registered in the alleged violation of social distancing norms at the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz.

On Wednesday, the Centre, represented by solicitor general Tushar Mehta, said the Union should be made a party to the petition. This was not opposed by senior advocate Ramesh Gupta, appearing for Waqf Board.

The court sought the response of the Centre, Delhi government and the city police after the petitioner said it had given a representation to the authorities on February 16 but no action was taken on it yet.

The matter would be now heard on March 5.

On March 31, the Delhi Police lodged an FIR against several persons, including the cleric and foreign delegates, on a complaint by station house officer of Nizamuddin police station for holding a congregation of Tablighi Jamaat followers in alleged violation of social distancing norms put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.

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