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Innocent Admission

‘Trans-border implications’: Centre on plea seeking reopening of Markaz

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New Delhi, Sep 14, 2021- The Centre has told the Delhi High Court that the case registered in connection with the alleged violation of Covid-19 protocols at Nizamuddin Markaz, where the Tablighi Jamaat congregation was held in March last year, is a serious case, having trans-border implication and requiring diplomatic consideration.

Justice Mukta Gupta, who was hearing the Delhi Waqf Board’s plea to re-open the markaz, which has remained shut since March 31 last year, queried Centre, for how long it intended to keep it locked, emphasising that premises cannot be kept locked forever.

Advocate Rajat Nair, representing the Centre, contended the persons who were occupying the premises has not been able to produce any document as per the Waqf Act and rules showing that they have been valid lease holders of the property.

It said that notices were served on Maulana Saad and family immediately after its sealing to show any title entitlement over the property, and even after a year, they have not been able to show any document, and neither the Waqf Board is able to cite, on what legal premises they have permitted Saad to occupy the building.

The Centre claimed that it appears that there is no valid title holder of Waqf property Masjid Bangley Wali, the Markaz, and Kashif Ul Uloom Madarsa, as no one has been able to show any record document to establish their occupancy, and indicated it appears case of encroachment.

It said that legal action to re-open the markaz can only be initiated by the lessee of the property and a plea has been filed by a resident of the premises to hand over the residential portion of the markaz, which is pending final adjudication before another high court judge.

The court, however, told the Centre’s counsel that possession of the case property has to be handed over. It further queried what is Centre’s stand on the facts of the case, and “how long will it keep the premises locked as case property?”

In an affidavit affirmed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime, the Centre said: “Since about 1,300 foreigners were found to be residing in the said premises and cases against them have cross-borders implications and involves the nation’s diplomatic relationship with other countries, it is necessary and incumbent on the part of the respondent to preserve the said premises for the purpose of Section 310 of CrPC.”

“In view of the seriousness of the case which has trans-border implication and diplomatic consideration, it is just and necessary that the case property in such a case is preserved in letter and spirit so that due process of law in dealing with such cases is followed…”

Senior advocate Ramesh Gupta, appearing for the board, contended before the court that his petition pertained to the release of the entire markaz property, comprising the masjid, the madarasa and the residential portion, and it has been pending for more than a year and a half.

Senior advocate Salman Khurshid, representing an intervening member, added that he agrees with the Waqf and the markaz would adhere to the relevant protocols, after re-opening.

The court issued notice on an application filed by a member of the managing committee of the markaz for his impleadment and allowed the Waqf Board to file its response on Centre’s affidavit. The court has scheduled the matter for next hearing on November 16.

In connection with the Tablighi Jamaat event held at the markaz, amid the Covid-19 lockdown last year, and the subsequent stay of foreigners several FIRs were registered under the Epidemic Diseases Act, the Disaster Management Act, Foreigners Act etc., (Agency)

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