NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed appeals filed by Waqf Board against the 2017 Allahabad High Court's direction to remove a "mosque" located on the court's premises, while posing a question as to how a lease land was converted into Waqf property.
The top court directed for removal of the mosque within three months.
A bench of Justices M R Shah and C T Ravikumar declined to interfere with the high court order of 2017.
The bench said that the high court can demolish the construction, if it is not cleared within three months. It also allowed the petitioner, Waqf Masjid High Court to make a representation to the state government for an alternative land, which may be considered in accordance with law and on its own merits.
The bench also recorded that the mosque was situated on government lease land and the grant was cancelled in 2002, and after cancellation of the lease the land was resumed in favour of the high court in 2004 for its expansion.
Dwelling upon the history of the matter, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Waqf Masjid High Court, said that Muslims were offering namaz and there was an arrangement for wazu as well.
He said that the mosque is situated across the road outside the high court and it was wrong to say it was on the high court premises.
In 2017, as the government changed and a PIL was filed against the mosque even though the mosque was functioning as a public mosque for decades.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, representing the UP Sunni Waqf Board, submitted that though the land belonged to the government but the board was in possession of the mosque meant for public use.
She submitted that they were agreeable to an alternate site and would not insist that namaz has to be offered there.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the high court, contended that this was a complete fraud and the petitioner unnecessarily gave the matter a religious colour. On a private lease land, one can't create a waqf, he contended.
"Mere offering namaz will not make a place a mosque. If in the Supreme Court verandah or high court verandah namaz is allowed for convenience, it will not become a mosque. These activities will not make it a mosque. Mosque is a serious affair. It should be dedicated in a proper way. Sometimes we see namaz in roads outside small mosques. That will not make the roads mosque," he said.
Dwivedi also said they can't bargain for an alternate land.
The court told the mosque’s counsel they had no right over there since it was a lease property.
"The lease was terminated and land was resumed and confirmed by this court in 2012, you can't claim it as a matter of right to continue," the court said.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the UP government, said there is another mosque adjacent to the high court and in 2004, the land was resumed for the high court and now, we are in 2023 now. She added that they are not raising any other ground except that the government has changed.
A petition was filed in the Allahabad High Court by Abhishek Shukla, contending that the mosque, a waqf property stood on land, which originally belonged to the high court.