Bombay High Court lifts stay on offering prayers in disputed Jalgaon mosque

The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday stayed, till August 1, an order issued by the Jalgaon district collector restraining people from offering prayers in a mosque within the district [Jumma Masjid Trust Committee v. State of Maharashtra & Ors.]

The collector had issued the order on July 11 after he was approached by a Hindu outfit, Pandavwada Sangharsh Samiti (PSS), claiming that the religious structure resembled a temple and the local Muslim community was encroaching upon it.

They filed a complaint with the collector on May 18.

The petitioner trust, Jumma Masjid Trust, claimed to have records to show the existence of the mosque structure at least since 1861.

The trust approached the High Court through its president Altaf Khan seeking to quash the order.

Pending the plea, the trust sought a stay on the execution of the order.

The respondent authorities and PSS claimed that the mosque trust could file an appeal against the collector’s order, instead of approaching the High Court.

However, a single-judge Justice RM Joshi did not accept this argument and held the petition is maintainable and proceeded to hear the case.

Advocate SS Kazi, for the mosque trust, argued that the mosque had been in existence for decades and that the State government had also declared it to be a historical monument.

The petition claimed that the trustees appeared before the collector but no hearing took place.

The petition apprised that without giving an opportunity, the collector passed a restraining order under Sections 144 and 145 (power to issue an order in issues likely to cause a breach of peace) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The plea stated that the same was arbitrary, illegal, and passed in haste.

Public prosecutor DR Kale, representing the collector, opposed the plea explaining that the order was not final, but an interim one. A detailed hearing will take place before the passing of the final order, he submitted.

The Court proceeded to issue notice to the respondents and stayed the order of the collector till the matter is finally heard.

“Prima facie perusal of the order impugned shows that there is no finding recorded about collector being satisfied that there is likelihood of breach of peace on account of alleged dispute. Even if it is accepted that in the operative part of the order, there is mention of a law and order situation, apparently there is no apprehension spelled out of any likelihood of causing a breach of peace. In prima facie opinion of this Court for want of such findings being recorded makes impugned order vulnerable and not sustainable in law,” the Court recorded in its 6-page order.

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