The Delhi High Court Wednesday allowed reopening of three floors of Nizamuddin Markaz, where the Tablighi Jamaat congregation was held in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and has remained shut since then, to enable devotees to offer prayers during Shab-e-Barat.
Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri removed the restriction of putting a limit of 100 people at one floor and said it has been agreed that the management of the mosque will ensure that COVID-19 protocols and social distancing will be followed while allowing devotees to enter the mosque to offer namaz.
While Delhi Police had imposed various conditions to be followed during the reopening of markaz on the occasion of Shab-e-barat, several of them were modified during the court hearing with mutual agreement between the police, Delhi Waqf Board and the management committee of the mosque.
The court noted that the ground floor and three other floors of the mosque building will be opened at 12 PM one day prior to Shab-e-Barat, which is on March 18, and will be closed the next day at 4PM.
The court, which was hearing an application by the Delhi Waqf Board seeking to open the mosque in view of Shab-e-Barat and Ramzan in March and April, listed the matter for March 31 to decide on the issue of reopening the mosque during Ramzan which will begin from April 2.
Regarding the condition imposed by the police that foreign citizens and OCI card holders will not be allowed inside the markaz premises and if some devotee of foreign origin or OCI card holder intends to offer namaz at Masjid Bangley Wali, his identity details along with ID proof will be taken by the management and submitted to the SHO, the management said it a notice will put on the display board at the entry gate specifying this restriction.
While the police, through advocate Rajat Nair, initially said no tablighi activities will be permitted during the reopening period, it was later agreed between the parties that opening of the mosque will be restricted only for offering prayers.
The court was informed that CCTV cameras have already been installed at the entry and exit points of the premises and the management will ensure that there will be screening of devotees with hand held thermal scanners at the entry point.
As senior advocates Sanjoy Ghose and Rebecca John, representing Delhi Waqf Board and the managing committee of the mosque respectively, initially submitted that the police letter was silent on the arrangement to made during Ramzan, Nair said the modalities for that will be worked out after Shab-e-barat.
The high court had on March 14, asked the Delhi Waqf Board, represented through advocate Waqeeh Shafiq, to file an application before the SHO of Hazrat Nizamuddin Police Station seeking permission to open the other three floors of Nizamuddin Markaz to enable devotees to offer prayers during Shab-e-Barat and Ramzan.
The counsel for the police had earlier said he has no objection in allowing 50 persons to offer prayers at the mosque’s first floor but the opening of the entire mosque cannot be permitted.
He had referred to the high court’s April 15, 2021 order by which it had permitted 50 persons to perform the Namaz five times at Masjid Bangley Wali on the first floor.
The Centre, in its recent affidavit, has opposed fully re-opening the Nizamuddin Markaz and stated that a few people may be allowed to offer prayers on the upcoming religious occasions.
The counsel for the Delhi Waqf Board had earlier said that the mosque, which is 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.
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.
In its application, the Board has said that last year during these two occasions — Shab-e-Barat and Ramzan, the high court had permitted prayers in the mosque.
It has said the current strain of COVID-19, Omicron, was not as severe and fatal as the Delta variant and as the conditions have improved, physical hearings of all courts have resumed, schools, clubs, bars, and markets have also reopened, therefore, there is no impediment to direct reopening of this waqf property.
The application was filed in the Board’s petition which has sought the reopening of the premises and contended that even after unlock-1 guidelines permitted religious places outside containment zones to be opened, the Markaz — comprising the Masjid Bangle Wali, Madarsa Kashif-ul-Uloom, and attached hostel — continues to be locked up.
On April 15, 2021, the court had allowed 50 people to offer namaz five times a day at Nizamuddin Markaz during Ramzan, saying there is no direction in the DDMA notification to close down places of worship.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)