Dilapidated structure not religious place for offering namaz in absence of proof: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on Friday remarked that in the absence of any proof of dedication or user, a dilapidated wall or platform cannot be conferred a status of a religious place for the purpose of offering prayers/ Namaaz.

With this view, the top court dismissed an appeal filed by the Waqf Board, Rajasthan challenging an order of the Rajasthan High Court directing the Board not to interfere with the action of Jindal Saw Limited and others in removal of the structure forming part of Khasra No. 6731 at Village Pur, Bhilwara, Rajasthan.

Jindal was granted lease of an area admeasuring 1556.7817 hectares in 2010 for the mining of Gold, Silver, Lead, Zinc, Copper, Iron, Cobalt, Nickle and associated minerals near Village Dhedwas, Tehsil and District Bhilwara, Rajasthan.

The Anjuman Committee addressed a letter to the Chairman of the Waqf Board in 2012 to the effect that on Tiranga Hill in Village Pur, was found in existence in Survey Number 931, where there is a wall and Chabutrah (platform) on a Tiranga Ki Qalandari Masjid’ where in olden times laborers used to offer prayers.

Waqf Board responded saying that the area consisting of the platform over the Tiranga Hill should be saved from mining. 

Later, the Chairman of the Waqf Board communicated to the Collector and to the Superintendent of Police that the communication was being misinterpreted as the purpose was to safeguard the interest of the waqf but the members of the Anjuman Committee have acted for personal gain and, therefore, action should be taken.

In this background, Jindal approached the High Court which in turn formed an expert committee. The Committee submitted its report in 2021, reporting that the dilapidated structure was neither a mosque nor any structure with archaeological or historical relevance.

A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramaniam found that the Qalandari Masjid on Tiranga Hill as per the document produced was located on Survey No. 931.

"There is no assertion that the Survey No. 931 is changed as Survey No. 6731. In fact, the old number of Survey No. 6731 is 9646 or may be some other number but positively not the survey number 931. Therefore, the claim of the appellant is on a different portion of land and not the land leased to the writ petitioner. There is discrepancy in the total area of the Masjid in the two documents, i.e., the extract produced by the appellant from the register and the second survey report....", the court said.

It was further found that The letter by the Anjuman Committee was based upon hearsay and is not of any binding value.

Also, there was found to be no evidence at any given point of time that the structure was being used as a mosque. There was also no allegation or proof of either of dedication or user or grant which can be termed as a waqf within the meaning of the Waqf Act, 1995.

While dismissing the appeal the court also noted that  State Government's stand that they had identified it to be a religious structure comprising in Khasra No. 6731 has not been produced on record.

"It is always open to the State as lessor to exercise the powers conferred in it by the lease deed after complying the principles of natural justice and on good and sufficient grounds...", said the court.