New Delhi: In a breather for the Shahi Imam of Delhi's historic Jama Masjid, the Delhi High Court on Friday refused to stay the ceremony to anoint Syed Ahmed Bukhari's son as his deputy and successor.
The high court, which was hearing three petitions on the matter, said that it cannot stay the ceremony scheduled for tomorrow as it was a private event.
The court however ruled that the Shahi Imam's decision to anoint his son as his deputy and successor has no legal sanctity.
The HC also sought reply of the Centre, the Wakf Board and Imam Bukhari on the matter by January 28.
The Centre and the Delhi Wakf Board had earlier submitted before the court that the ceremony had no legal sanctity.
The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw during arguments on three public interest litigations challenging the November 22 ceremony where Bukhari plans to anoint his son as Naib Imam who will be the next chief cleric.
The Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, and the Board made the submission in response to the court's query as to what is the legal position on the issue.
The ASG had suggested that the ceremony can go on without having any legal sanctity but at any other place than the Jama Masjid.
The court, during arguments, had also queried as to whether the Jama Masjid was under the supervision of the Board and if yes, what has it been doing on the issue.
It also observed that if the Board was the competent authority, "let them inquire and take what steps need to be taken".
While admitting that Jama Masjid is under its supervision, the Wakf Board said that the current Imam cannot on his own appoint his successor as the same would not have any legal sanctity without its ratification.
The Board also said that it is the 'muttawalli' of Jama Masjid and will be appointing a management committee for the same. It also said that the current Imam was appointed in 2000, but he was ratified as Imam only in 2006.
The petitioners, during the proceedings, contended the Imam is functioning in the position without having any legal sanctity and also alleged that he was running several shops around Jama Masjid in violation of the high court's 2005 order against the same.
The Centre had on Wednesday said that the Mughal-era mosque Jama Masjid is a Wakf property and it has to decide how the rule of primogeniture applies on anointment of new Shahi Imam, which has come under challenge.
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had also requested the court to declare the city's Jama Masjid as an ancient monument because of its national importance while contending that it needs to be protected.
The PILs filed by Suhail Ahmed Khan, Ajay Gautam and advocate VK Anand have said Jama Masjid is a property of Delhi Wakf Board and Bukhari as its employee cannot appoint his son as Naib Imam (deputy Imam).
Bukhari had recently sparked a controversy by announcing that he has invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the ceremony for anointing his son as the deputy Imam but did not invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
(With PTI inputs)