Quwwatul Islam mosque inside Qutub Minar complex, New Delhi. Photo credit: The Times of India.

By Syed Khalique Ahmed

NEW DELHI—On Monday, a Delhi court rejected a petition claiming that the Quwwatul Islam mosque within the Qutub Minar complex was built on the debris of Jain and Hindu temples and they be given the right to place idols and worship inside it.

The court ordered 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 the party.

The claim was contested by the Legal Action for Justice, a Delhi-based NGO with Advocate Anwar Siddiqui as its secretary.

Senior advocate Meer Akhtar Hussain represented the trust under the supervision of Supreme Court advocate Fuzail Ahmed Ayubi.

The petition claiming the mosque was filed in court in December 2020.

While contesting the claims of the Hindu and Jain parties, the trust submitted that the petition had no legal basis.

The trust demanded that the petition be rejected because it is in direct contravention to the Places of Worship Act, 1991, and Section 39 of the Ancient Monuments Act of 1904 and 1958.

The petitioners had claimed that the Army of Muhammad Gauri demolished Jain and Hindu temples within the Qutub Minar complex, and a masjid, besides the Qutub Minar, was built on their debris.

The petitioners sought to be allowed to form a trust and given rights to worship idols inside the mosque.

The trust submitted a lengthy reply with evidence to challenge the claims of the petitioners.

The Muslim side submitted that the Qutub Minar was declared a protected monument through a gazette notification by the Government of India on January 16, 1914.

It stated that no worship was ever held by the followers of any other religion than Muslims in this complex, including the mosque, in the last 700-800 years of its existence.

Neither organization nor an individual filed any objection to the gazette notification that declared the Qutub Minar and the Quwwatul Islam mosque as protected monuments within three years of the notification as required under the existing law.

The second point raised by the trust advocates was that the 1914 gazette notification did not mention the presence of any religious place or idols inside the complex.

The trust argued that the petitioners moved the court seeking permission to register a trust and right to worship inside the complex after 104 years of the gazette notification. Therefore, the petitioners have no legal basis.

The trust submitted that there is no proof of any temple inside the complex either before 1191 when the Qutub Minar and Quwwatul Islam mosque was built or after 1191.

The trust pointed out that provisions in the Places of Worship Act, 1991, did not allow any legal intervention in cases like that of Qutub Minar and the mosque inside it.

The 1991 Act, the trust said, provides status quo on all religious places as it existed on August 15, 1947, and does not allow any alteration. As Qutub Minar was declared a protected monument in 1904, provisions of the 1958 Act do not apply. Therefore, the trust argued that only the provisions under the Places of Worship Act, 1991, will be applicable in this case which does not allow any activity demanded by the petitioner.

Fourthly, the trust argued that the petition violated the ‘doctrine of acquiesence’ and the Limitation Act of 1963.

Based on these arguments, trust president Mohammed Asad Hayat and its secretary Advocate Anwar Siddiqui had also submitted a memorandum to the Union Government and Archaeological Survey of India, asking that the petitioner’s claims be rejected.

This story first appeared on indiatomorrow.net