The Delhi High Court, overseeing the redevelopment of the historic Jama Masjid, on Tuesday witnessed keen debate over allegations of plans to "extensively commercialise the mosque complex".
While two petitions challenged the latest "altered plan aiming rampant commercialization" of the complex, the MCD through a status report contended that "only what has been approved by the court is being done and not an inch of commercial space has been added."
The plan, according to the petitioners, proposes a huge basement level mall in the forecourt of the mosque with provision for 3,000 shops and a three-levels underground parking beneath it.
"There was already a plan approved by the court in October 2006. But the MCD's zonal commissioner and the nodal officer for the project, Vijay Singh, came up with a drastically altered plan with 3,000 shops without the approval of the court which means it is completely illegal," lawyer Varun Goswami, one of the petitioners, told a Bench of Justices Mukul Mudgal and Manmohan. Goswami has sought the Singh's removal.
Another petitioner lawyer Usha Kumar, president of NGO Heritage and Cultural Forum, argued before the court that the MCD "was now only concerned about the surroundings and commercialization of the mosque while the main task entrusted to them was to restore the Mughal monument by May 2008. All these are being done without the permission of the court".
When contacted by Hindustan Times, Vijay Singh denied any unauthorised commercialization. Singh claimed the plan vetted by the court had approved rebuilding of 650 shops in Meena Bazar, 100 shops near Dargah Sheikh Kalimullah and an underground parking and a commercial floor near Subhash Park.
"Major modifications include the location of underground parking at a safe distance of 170 to 200 metres from the main structure of Jama Masjid. The additional commercial area required for meeting the project cost has strictly been kept around 20,000 metres which was approved by the court. The judges asked both the petitioners to file their reply after perusing MCD's status report. The next hearing is on September 24.