A Delhi Court on November 29 rejected a petition which had claimed that the Quwwatul Islam Mosque inside the Qutub Minar Complex was built on the debris of Jain and Hindu temples and therefore they should be given the right to place idols and worship inside it.

The Delhi Court delivered the verdict on a petition filed by Tirthankar Lord Rishabh Dev, who had made the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and Archaeological Survey of India, etc., as parties in the case. The plaintiff’s claim was that Masjid Quwwatul Islam was built by demolishing Jain and Hindu temples. The plaintiff had also claimed that Mohammad Ghori had destroyed the said temples and later Masjid Quwwatul Islam and Qutub Minar, etc. were built on their debris, so the right to worship idols should be given and a trust be formed.

In this case, a Trust namely Legal Action for Justice (LAJ) also filed an application requesting to be a party in the court under Order 1 Rule 10 of CPC. The Trust filed a second application under Order 7 Rule 11 (a) and (d), saying that there is no cause of action for the plaintiffs to file the suit as Masjid Quwwatul Islam and Qutub Minar are protected monuments under the Ancient Monuments Prevention Act 1904. The Trust also argued that Section 39 of the Ancient Monuments Act 1958 and the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991, did not apply in this case and thus the case was not maintainable so should be dismissed.

Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court of India, who was the counsel of the Trust, said, “There were many legal issues on the basis of which the suit was not maintainable. On the face of it the suit was expressly barred due to the provisions of The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991. Under Section 4 of the said Act it is declared that the religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August 1947 shall continue to be same as it existed on that day and no suit shall be filed for its conversion. Recently in Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case the Honourable Supreme Court in Para 85 has clearly explained this position while interpreting Section 4 of the Act.”

Ayyubi added, “On the facts the plaintiffs have alleged that conversion had taken place as long back as in 1197. It is clear from the pleadings that the place for the last more than 800 years has not been used for any religious purposes or prayer by the plaintiff or others. It’s also an admitted position that the suit property is a Gazetted Archaeological site and the monument never existed as a religious place of any sector or denomination. Therefore the suit was liable to be dismissed and was rightly rejected in view of the facts and the law governing the same.”

On what was said by the Muslim side, Mohammad Anwar Siddiqui Advocate, Secretary LAJ, New Delhi, said, “Qutub Minar and its entire complex were declared a protected monument by the Government of India on 16 January 1914 by publishing a government gazette. At that time (also 800 years before that) there was no religious worship / worship by the followers of any religion inside this site. No person filed a suit till the year 1914 or three years thereafter for quashing the notification of declaration of the site or for restoring his right to worship, as the site is protected under the Act of 1904.”

He added, “It is worth noting that even in the notification of 1914, it is not written that any religious place or idols existed there. Now the plaintiffs in the end of 2020 (i.e. after about 106 years of the notification) wanted to form a trust and get the right to worship there. And they filed this suit with an unreasonable and illegal demand to remove the rest of the protected monument i.e. the Qutub Minar, etc.”

He argued, “There has been no temple in Qutub Minar Complex area since 1191, the year of construction of this monument and there was no temple before it, no evidence of this is solid. The Places of Worship Act 1991 also does not allow any case to be tried on such an issue and provides that the situation as it was on 15th August 1947 will continue and no suit can be initiated to change it. The Qutub Minar was declared as a protected monument under the Act of 1904, so no provision of the 1958 Act can be applied to it and only the Places of Worship Act 1991 will apply to it.”

Mohammad Asad Hayat and Mohammad Anwar Siddiqui Advocate, President and Secretary respectively of the said Trust, sent a memorandum to the higher officials of the Central Government and Archaeological Department on February 19 this year. Thereafter they filed a petition in the Supreme Court, requesting to dismiss the case in the court.

Senior Advocate Meer Akhtar Hussain represented the Trust under the supervision of Supreme Court Advocate-on-Record Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi.

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