The decision by Jama Masjid’s Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari to anoint his son as his successor had no legal sanctity, the Delhi high court said on Friday, but refused to stay the ceremony.
The dastarbandi function, scheduled for Saturday, to anoint 19-year-old Syed Shaban Bukhari as the naib, or deputy, imam of Jama Masjid would “not amount to an appointment”, a bench said.
The anointment will be subject to the final decision of the court, which will now hear the case on January 28.
“Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari has no right in law or otherwise to anoint his son as the naib imam,” the bench said, taking note of submissions by the Centre and the Delhi wakf board (DWB) in the case.
Bukhari attracted controversy last month when he invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his son’s anointment but left out PM Narendra Modi.
The bench was listening to petitions that argued that the Shahi Imam was an employee of the wakf board and hence had no right to name his son as successor.
Even as the ministry fears for thThe court also took up the issue of financial irregularities at the historic mosque, commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and built between 1644 and 1658.
“Why has the DWB left the entire management of the Jama Masjid to Bukhari? Why has it allowed Bukhari to appropriate all earnings from the masjid?” the bench asked.
All financial transactions of the mosque are looked after by Bukhari. The judges also wanted to know what action the DWB had taken to ensure that the accounts were regularly checked. There were judicial orders to this effect, the court said.
It noted the wakf act of 1995 only provided for the appointment of a ‘mutawalli’ (caretaker) and had no provision for imams of wakf properties, even a mosque.
“In exercise of what power was Bukhari appointed the imam of the Jama Masjid,” the bench asked. It also asked why the DWB took five years to ratify Bukhari’s appointment as the Jama Masjid imam, even though he was anointed in 2000.