When hundreds of devotees congregate at a 128-year-old mosque in south Delhi’s Alaknanda on Friday, its caretakers and police will face an uphill and rather sensitive task.
As per the Delhi High Court’s January 19 order, they have to ensure namaz (prayer) is offered within the boundary of the mosque, situated inside the Aravalli Apartments complex.
The apartment’s RWA had sought a direction from the court to disallow people offering prayers from occupying lanes, bylanes and the parking area on Fridays and festivals, which, according to them, restricted their movement.
The residents claimed “the mosque was an unauthorised construction and an encroachment on public land” and sought its removal.
But Delhi Wakf Board counsel Nazmi Waziri said the mosque, being over 100 years old, was protected by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
Refraining from taking a decision on the legality of the structure, the high court gave the parties the liberty to approach a civil court.
However, judges Sanjay Kishan Kaul and S.K. Misra, sensing the sensitivity of the issue, did a balancing act. They held that “the namazis (devotees) have a right to offer their namaz within the boundary of the mosque subject to the determination of the ultimate question in civil proceedings”. They, however, said the rights “cannot imply a right to spill over into lanes and bylanes and to occupy the area beyond the precincts of the mosque”.
The mosque authorities, Wakf board and the police have been asked to prevent encroachments forthwith even if it meant restricting the number of people offering prayers.
“The high court order came on January 19. On January 24, the next Friday, encroachments continued. The authorities might not have been aware of the court order. I have handed over copies of the judgment to the mosque authorities and the commissioner of police. I expect the police or the mosque authorities to take some concrete action tomorrow,” said J.C. Seth, the Aravalli residents’ counsel.
The court had said: “It is the bounden duty of the police to ensure the law of land is obeyed and law and order be maintained. It thus must be ensured that the areas beyond the boundary of the masjid (mosque) are kept clear for the residents of the area.”
Assistant Commissioner Rakesh Pawaria, of Kalkaji police station, said: “A law and order crisis is not expected. We are in talks with the RWA and mosque authorities and expect an amicable solution. I don’t think police will have to be deployed.”