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No limit on devotees in Nizamuddin Markaz if no such restrictions at other religious places: Delhi HC

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Nizamuddin Markaz has been locked since March last year when hundreds of people were found congregating in violation of the Covid-19 guidelines.

The Delhi High Court on Monday turned down the Centre’s request to limit the number of people who can enter Nizamuddin Markaz during Ramzan. The court said that there can’t be any such limit on Markaz when other religious places do not have such restrictions. The Centre and the Delhi Police had submitted that only 20 people be allowed to enter the premises at a time out of a police-verified list of 200 persons. However, the court allowed the mosque inside the Markaz to open for prayers during Ramzan in accordance with the guidelines of Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).

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The Indian Express reports that Justice Mukta Gupta observed that it was an open place and it doesn’t have to have a fixed (number of) devotees when no other religious place has. He further said that anybody can wish to go to a temple or mosque or church and a specific list of 200 persons cannot be given by anyone. “A 200-people list is not acceptable; that cannot be,” the court was quoted as saying by IE. The court, however, said that a list of persons managing the mosque can be given to the local SHO.

The court ordered that an inspection of the mosque in presence of the local SHO can take place to measure the area for determining the number of people who can offer namaz in accordance with social distancing norms, and marking the spots where prayer mats can be put for devotees. The court has asked the authorities to file a status report and posted the matter for Tuesday.

Representing the Centre, advocate Rajat Nair said a list of 200 people can be submitted to the police but only 20 people may enter the mosque at a single time to comply with social distancing norms. However, senior advocate Ramesh Gupta representing the Delhi Waqf Board told the court they will follow all the protocol but it would be practically difficult to comply with such a list.

Justice Gupta then asked the Centre whether it had put any limit on other religious places. “For religious places, have you curtailed the gathering to 20 at a time? What is the maximum number which you have given for each of the religious places,” the court asked. To this, Nair said that no such limit had been set but that number was determined by the management of that religious place. He, however, added that there is “another issue” with the mosque at Markaz Nizamuddin.

He said somebody would have to monitor the place as it was a “case property”, according to the report. However, the court said that it was a structure pertinent to the land and nobody can remove the structure. “I do not know in what sense the case property…but nobody is hindering the investigation,” the court said.

Nizamuddin Markaz has been locked since March last year when hundreds of people were found congregating in violation of the Covid-19 guidelines. Many of them had come from abroad flouting visa norms. Cases were registered against them and the Markaz was shut. India has again come in the grip of the second wave with coronavirus cases crossing 1.5 lakh in a day.

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