Delhi High Court Seeks Clarity on Prayers in Protected Monuments

During a recent hearing, the Delhi High Court requested the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to clarify its policy on allowing prayers by devotees in religious places situated within protected monuments. The issue arose in response to a petition challenging the discontinuation of prayers in the Mughal Mosque, which is part of the Qutub Minar complex and falls under the category of protected monuments.

The ASI’s Position and Court’s Concern:

The counsel representing the ASI stated that, in his understanding, prayers in protected monuments are not permitted. Justice Prateek Jalan expressed concern over this assertion, urging the ASI’s counsel to provide a clearer explanation of the organization’s stance on the matter. The court emphasized the need for a uniform policy across all protected monuments in the country, allowing no religious worship unless legally supported.

Complaints by the Managing Committee of the Mosque:

The managing committee of the Mughal Mosque, appointed by the Delhi Waqf Board, approached the high court with a complaint against the ASI. They alleged that prayers were abruptly and unlawfully prohibited in the mosque in May 2022. The committee described this action as arbitrary and without legal basis.

Legal Arguments and Verification:

Advocate M Sufian Siddiqui, counsel for the Delhi Waqf Board, argued that once a religious place becomes an ancient monument under ASI’s control, the law does not permit the cessation of prayers in that place. The court requested the ASI to present records related to the mosque’s declaration as a protected monument in 1914 to verify its validity.

Impact on Other Monuments:

The ASI raised concerns that permitting prayers in the Mughal Mosque could set a precedent for other monuments. They stressed the need to consider the potential consequences on other historical sites.

The Connection to Quwattul Islam Mosque:

During the hearing, it was clarified that the Mughal Mosque and Quwattul Islam Mosque are separate entities. However, the right to pray in one mosque could impact the other as they are located within the same complex.

The Argument from the Waqf Board:

The Waqf Board claims that the mosque is not protected and lies outside the fenced area. They assert that there is substantial evidence of its previous use for religious purposes.

Conclusion and Next Hearing:

The court scheduled the next hearing for October to further assess the validity of the mosque’s status and the right to pray within it.

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