On March 13, the Supreme Court of India dismissed the special leave petition submitted by the Waqf Masjid High Court and the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board against the High Court’s order to remove or demolish the mosque in its premises.
The apex court bench comprising Justice MR Shah and CT Ravikumar granted a three-month extension to the mosque administration to vacate the premises. The mosque is located inside the High Court premises.
The bench added if the construction is not removed within the 3-month period, the authorities will have permission to remove or demolish it. The court also permitted the petitioners to make a representation to the UP govt for an alternate land nearby which the state can consider if the law permits and considering if the lands are not required for any public purpose at present or in the future.
The court noted that the mosque was constructed on a government lease land whose grant was cancelled in 2002. In 2004, the land was resumed in favour of the Allahabad High Court. In 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the resumption of the land. The apex court said the petitioners did not have any legal right over the premises. Notably, the High Court’s orders against which the petition was filed in the apex court were passed in a PIL filed by Advocate Abhishek Shukla.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for the mosque committee. He argued that the mosque had been there since the 1950s and asked for an alternate site. He said, “The government changed in 2017, and everything changed. A PIL was filed ten days after the new government was formed. We have no problems with shifting to an alternative place as long as they give it to us.”
Senior advocate Indira Jaising appearing for UP Sunni Waqf Board, argued that the mosque was privately built but later dedicated to the public and registered with the Waqf board, thus becoming a Waqf property. On the contrary, Sibal excused himself from the argument that it was a Waqf mosque.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, calling the case fraud, appearing for the High Court, said, “Twice there were renewal applications, and there was no whisper at all that the mosque was constructed, and it was used for the public. They sought renewal saying it was needed for residential purposes. The mere fact that they are offering namaz will not make it a mosque. If namaz is allowed for convenience in the Supreme Court verandah or HC verandah, it will not become a mosque.”
Dwivedi added that the mosque administration got it registered with Waqf in 2002 with the aim of stalling the eviction. He argued that unnecessary religious colour was given to the HC judgment.
The high court also informed the apex court that there was no alternate plot of land to relocate the mosque. The state might consider moving it to somewhere else, advocate Dwivedi said, adding that there was a shortage of parking on the premises.