Dilapidated platform can’t be conferred status of religious place without proof: SC

New Delhi, April 29 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday observed that in the absence of any proof of dedication or user, a dilapidated wall or a platform cannot be conferred a status of a religious place for the purpose of offering namaaz.
A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian noted that there is no evidence, at any given point of time, that the structure was being used as a mosque. It added that there is 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.
“The report of the experts is relevant only to the extent that the structure has no archaeological or historical importance. In the absence of any proof of dedication or user, a dilapidated wall or a platform cannot be conferred a status of a religious place for the purpose of offering prayers/namaaz,” it said, while dismissing appeals filed by the Rajasthan Waqf Board challenging an order of the Rajasthan High Court directing it not to interfere with the action of Jindal Saw Ltd and others in removal of the structure forming part of Khasra No. 6731 at village Pur in Bhilwara district.
In 2010, the firm was granted lease of an area measuring 1,556.7817 hectares for the mining of gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, iron, cobalt, nickel and associated minerals near village Dhedwas in Bhilwara.
In 2012, the Anjuman Committee addressed a letter to the Chairman of the Waqf Board stating there is a wall and chabutra (platform) on a ‘Tiranga Ki Qalandari Masjid’ where in olden times, labuorers used to offer prayers. However, the elders in the community said they have not seen anybody praying namaaz, nor there is access to water and stairs to reach the platform. The Waqf Board, however, said the area should be saved from mining and the high court constituted a committee of experts to examine the issue.
The committee, in its report submitted on January 10, 2021, said the dilapidated structure existing at Khasra No 6731 is neither a mosque nor any structure with archaeological or historical relevance.
The Waqf Board counsel argued that such an expert committee constituted had no representative from the Board and it was not associated with the report submitted, therefore, the report cannot be made basis of rejecting the structure on the hill as not a religious structure.
He contended that whether the structure is a waqf or not has to be decided by the Waqf Tribunal in terms of Section 83 of the Act and not in a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution.
However, the top court noted that perusal of the photographs shows that the structure is totally dilapidated without any roof and in fact a wall and some broken derelict platform exist at the spot. “The area is surrounded by vegetation and there is also nothing to suggest that the structure was ever used for offering prayers (namaaz) as neither the area is accessible, nor there is any facility of wazu (ritual cleaning), which is stated to be an essential step before offering prayer. The experts from the Archaeological Department have reported that the structure has no historical or archaeological importance.”
Dismissing the appeals, the bench noted that though the state government claimed that they have identified it to be a religious structure, however nothing has been produced on record.
“There is nothing on record that such decision if any, was arrived at after associating the writ petitioner. 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.”

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