The Centre Friday opposed before the Delhi High Court fully re-opening the Nizamuddin Markaz, where the Tablighi Jamaat congregation was held in March 2020 amid COVID19 pandemic and has remained shut since then, stating that a few people may be allowed to offer prayers on the upcoming religious occasions.
Government counsel Rajat Nair told Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri, who was hearing a plea by the Delhi Waqf Board to open the mosque in view of Shab-e-Barat and Ramzan in March and April, that the mosque is a case property and the petitioner board has no locus to seek its re-opening.
Nair said that on earlier occasions, a concession was given to allow a few people to offer prayers subject to conditions and there was no objection with respect to such arrangement this time as well.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner said that the mosque, which is under the lock of Delhi Police, should be opened as the Delhi Disaster Management Authority has now lifted all restrictions that were imposed on account of the pandemic.
The judge listed the case for hearing next week and asked the petitioner to bring the DDMA order on record.
Several FIRs were registered under the Epidemic Diseases Act, the Disaster Management Act, 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 last year.
In its application filed through advocate Waqeeh Shafiq, the petitioner 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.
It has stated that even if the premises was part of any criminal investigation or trial, keeping it "under lock as an out of bound area" was a "primitive method" of enquiry process.
Last year, the court had questioned the Centre as to how long it intended to keep the Nizamuddin Markaz locked, saying it can't be “kept forever”.
In its affidavit affirmed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime, the Centre has told the court that it was “necessary and incumbent” to “preserve” the Markaz property as the investigation in the case registered for violation of the COVID19 protocols has “cross borders implications and involves nation's diplomatic relationship with other countries.” 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.)