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Jama Masjid in Delhi is a Wakf property: Centre tells High Court

PTI 19 Nov 2014, 19:02:41 PM IST

New Delhi:  The Centre today told the Delhi High Court that Mughal-era mosque Jama Masjid is a Wakf property and it has to decide how the rule of primogeniture applies on anointment of new Shahi Imam, which has come under challenge.

“It is irrelevant who is invited or who is not invited.  It's disturbing how we treat our history...It is an admitted position that it's a Wakf property. It has to be decided how rule of primogeniture will apply on succession of Imam/chief cleric,” the Centre told the bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) also requested the court to declare the city's Jama Masjid as an ancient monument because of its national importance while contending that it needs to be protected.

ASI made the submission during the brief hearing of three separate PILs against Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari challenging the decision to anoint his son as the next chief cleric.

The PILs filed by Suhail Ahmed Khan, Ajay Gautam and advocate V K Anand said Jama Masjid is a property of Delhi Wakf Board and Bukhari as its employee cannot appoint his son as Naib Imam (deputy Imam).

ASI told the court that Jama Masjid is a historical monument commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, “so it needs to be protected by us (ASI)”. The court said it will hear the pleas tomorrow in detail for consideration.

The petitions said Shahi Imam had announced on October 30 that his 19-year-old son would succeed him as the next Shahi Imam and the ceremony of ‘Dastarbandi' would be held on November 22.

“Despite knowing that Shahi Imam is an employee of the Wakf Board and it's the board which has the right to appoint an Imam, he (Bukhari) has declared his 19-year-old son to be a Naib Imam and is holding a dastarbandi ceremony for the said purpose, which is purely anti-Islamic,” the pleas said. 

The pleas alleged that the Shahi Imam was a public post and not the “personal property” of Syed Ahmed Bukhari and IMAMAT (the position of a divinely-appointed leader) is not transferable.

“It is submitted the position of an Shahi Imam is a public position and is connected with the sentiments and emotions of the entire community.

Therefore, such an important position cannot be inherited by birth,” one of the pleas said.  It also contended Bukhari is merely an employee of Delhi Wakf Board which is the only authority to choose and appoint the next Imam of Jama Masjid.

“No person can hold any title given to him or his ancestors by any erstwhile Emperor, King or Shah after the Constitution of India came into force,” the plea said.

The PILs also asked the court to declare invalid the appointment of Bukhari as the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid and alleged that there is “complete anarchy and misuse of power” by him.

Alleging illegal construction within the Masjid premises, one of the pleas sought a CBI probe. It also sought directions for Delhi Wakf Board to take over the affairs of Jama Masjid and appoint a Shahi Imam.

The plea also asked ASI and the central government to declare Jama Masjid a protected monument.  Bukhari had recently sparked a controversy by announcing that he has invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the ceremony for anointing his son as the deputy Imam but did not invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi.