The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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HC notices on Jama Masjid

New Delhi, Nov. 6 (PTI): Delhi High Court has sought replies from the Centre and the lieutenant governor on a petition alleging that terrorists and antisocial elements were taking shelter in Jama Masjid and the monument was being used as private property by Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari.

Issuing notices to the Union urban development ministry, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Imam Bukhari and the Delhi Wakf Board, a bench of Justices Anil Dev Singh and R.S. Sodhi asked them to file replies by November 27.

Notices were also issued to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the city police commissioner.

The court observed that violation of law could not be permitted “whosoever the person might be”.

A public interest litigation (PIL) by Raisuddin, a resident of Delhi, alleged that Ahmed and his father “had started using the surrounding areas (of the mosque) for their private purposes and all sorts of illegal activities, bazars, terrorist activities, and anti-social elements take shelter in this monument”.

The petitioner alleged that the mafia was trying to grab the masjid land.

Accusing the DDA, MCD and police officials of “patronising the mafia”, the PIL said: “There is hardly any open space left in the mosque’s surroundings as the same had been fully encroached upon by antisocial elements in collusion with Bukhari who is getting huge money from them.”

Unauthorised construction around the mosque were defacing its features, the PIL said, adding that this was not only causing problems to thousands of devotees coming there every day, but also presenting it in bad taste to tourists, especially foreigners.

When Delhi government counsel V.K. Shali submitted that it was difficult to take action considering the “volatile nature” of the area where “riots” can take place on the slightest provocation, the court said: “If the authorities tend to implement the law sincerely, their action would not be opposed.”

“If they cannot enforce law and order, then they have no business to remain there,” the court observed.

Petitioner’s counsel R.K. Mansal said the court had earlier issued a series of directions to clear the area of all unauthorised constructions but the DDA and MCD, despite giving assurances in this regard, “have failed” to take action on one pretext or the other.

“Some vested interest under political patronage prevailed upon the DDA in abandoning its programme for demolition and under pressure, it invariably took the plea that the area is a sensitive one and no drastic action is possible,” he said.

Reminding the court that in 1975-76, a massive demolition operation was carried out by the government around the mosque despite strong opposition from the then imam, Syed Abdullah Bukhari, the PIL said the authorities then had enforced the law for preserving the surroundings as a “green and open area”.

But during the past two decades, the entire area was allowed to be encroached upon again by the same authorities which had earlier cleared it, the PIL said.

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