The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the special leave petitions challenging the 2017 Allahabad High Court judgement to remove the mosque from its premise has sparked a fresh debate about the role of the judiciary in India’s specular democracy.
The High Court has ordered the removal of the mosque to avail the land for its own use as well as expansion citing the need for a public purpose. The Supreme Court bench led by Justice M.R Shah while dismissing the special leave petitions reiterated the High Court’s position that the removal of the mosque was necessary for public purposes and that there were cogent reasons given for the move.
This decision has drawn both support and criticism from different quarters. Where on the one hand some have hailed the decision as a victory for the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers. They argue that the judiciary has a duty to uphold the law and ensure that public institutions have the space and resources they need to function effectively.
Moreover, in this particular case, the High Court had determined that the removal of the mosque was necessary for its own expansion which would ultimately benefit the public. The Supreme Court’s affirmation of this decision is thus seen as a validation of the judiciary’s role in safeguarding the public interest.
Moreover, the Court had instructed the mosque authorities to leave the premises within the time period of three months. This decision was challenged by the Waqf Masjid High Court and the U.P Sunni Central Waqf Board, who took their case to the apex court where the petitioners were allowed to submit a detailed representation requesting an alternate location nearby, if available to construct the mosque as long as the new land is not meant for any public purpose in the present or in the future.
If the disputed construction is not removed within the next three months the authorities including the High Court may take the required steps to remove the same. The ruling of the Supreme Court which also included Justice C.T Ravikumar was influenced by the fact that the mosque was situated on the land leased by the government which was terminated in 2002. The apex court also acknowledged that it had previously upheld the High Court’s claim to regain ownership of the land in 2012.
Furthermore, the senior advocate Kapil Sibal who represented the Waqf Masjid in the High Court provided a historical account of the mosque and noted that the Muslims had been offering namaz there with room for wazu. He also clarified that the mosque was situated across the road from the High Court not on its promises and it was incorrect to say otherwise. He further explained that a PIL was filed against the mosque after the new government came into power in 2017, even though it had been functioning as a public mosque for many years.
Additionally, another senior advocate Indira Jaising who was representing the UP Sunni Waqf Board argued that while the land belonged to the government the board had possession of the mosque which was meant for public use. Jaising also stated that his client was willing to accept an alternate site and was not insisting that the namaz had to be offered at the current location.
Moreover, the legal representative of the High Court contended that the petitioner had needlessly turned the issue into a religious one. The Supreme Court advised the mosque’s counsel to recognize that they had no rights since the property was leased.
The court explained that the lease had been terminated and the lease had been taken back as confirmed by their ruling. Therefore, the mosque’s counsel could not claim the right to continue using the property.