HC may 'in its wisdom' permit namaz at Nizamuddin Markaz mosque, says Centre

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New Delhi, Apr 15 (PTI) The Delhi High Court 'in its wisdom and discretion' may permit such persons as it deems fit and proper to perform namaz only on the ground floor of the mosque at the Nizamuddin Markaz by strictly following all COVID-19 related protocols, the Centre said in a report submitted to the court on Thursday.

Without specifying whether all places of worship were closed, as was sought by the high court, the report said the DDMA notification prohibiting all kinds of gathering in the wake of increasing COVID-19 cases was applicable to all religions.

Justice Mukta Gupta, after perusing the report filed by the Assistant Commissioner of Police Sub Division Lajpat Nagar, observed that it was silent on whether all the places of worship in the national capital were closed in accordance with the Delhi Disaster Management Authority's (DDMA) notification.

'You have not stated in the status report whether other religious places are closed or open. We find most of the religious places (in Delhi) are open,' the court said.

Justice Gupta also said that her directions on April 13 were very clear that the court wants to know whether all places of worship were closed as per the DDMA notification.

The observations by the court came during the brief hearing of a plea by the Delhi Waqf Board seeking opening of the Nizamuddin Markaz where the Tablighi Jamaat congregation was held amid the COVID-19 pandemic and was locked since March 31 last year. Advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the Centre, said Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta has instructions on the query posed by the court on whether all places of worship were closed in Delhi.

He requested the court to list the matter at the end of the list of cases being heard by it during the day.

The court, thereafter, said it will hear the matter after the cases in its list are over.

The status report also said that the court may direct complete video recording of the event through CCTVs installed by the Board in consultation with the police.

The court on April 13 had asked the Centre whether the DDMA order prohibiting all kinds of gathering in the wake of increasing COVID-19 cases was being implemented across the board.

It had directed the central government to file an affidavit indicating the manner in which the prohibitory order of the DDMA issued on April 10 was being followed and whether any kind of social, religious, political or festive congregation or gathering was being permitted in the national capital.

The court had called for the affidavit, after the SG on April 13 said that no gathering can be permitted at the mosque for offering prayers during Ramzan in view of the DDMA order.

He had also said that only the five persons who were already permitted to pray there each day could be allowed inside the Nizamuddin Markaz mosque.

The board, in its plea filed through advocate Wajeeh Shafiq, has contended that even after unlock-1 guidelines permitted religious places outside containment zones to be opened, the markaz -- comprising the Masjid Bangley Wali, Madarsa Kashif-ul-uloom and attached hostel -- continues to be locked up.

It has further contended that even if the premises was part of any criminal investigation or trial, keeping it 'under lock as an out of bound area' was a 'primitive method' of enquiry process.

An FIR has been registered under the Epidemic Diseases Act, the Disaster Management Act, Foreigners Act and various provisions of the penal code in connection with the Tablighi Jamaat event held at the markaz and the subsequent stay of foreigners there during the COVID-19 lockdown last year. PTI HMP SA