Bombay High Court Stays Jalgaon Collector's Order Restricting Namaz in Mosque

The order was passed by the high court's Aurangabad bench, which also directed the collector's office to hand over the keys to the mosque to the latter's Trust committee.

Mumbai: Days after the Jalgaon district collector arbitrarily issued an order preventing the Muslim community from offering namaz at the 800-year-old Jumma Masjid, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court has come to the community’s rescue.

A single-judge bench of the high court comprising Justice R.M. Joshi put a two-week stay on the collector’s order on Tuesday, June 18. With the court’s order, the Jumma Masjid Trust has regained control over the mosque and the community will be able to offer namaz there like before.

Confirming the Bombay high court’s order, advocate S.S. Kazi, representing the Jumma Masjid Trust committee, told The Wire that “the court, along with imposing a stay on the collector’s order, has also directed his office to hand over the keys to the mosque to the Trust committee. The Masjid will once again be open to the community.”

The Jumma Masjid in Jalgaon’s Erandol taluka is a registered property under the waqf board. Until May this year, the mosque had a smooth run, without ever facing any state interference. 

The centuries-old mosque, however, suddenly became a site of controversy because of a complaint filed by an unregistered organisation called the Pandavwada Sangharsh Samiti. The complainant, Prasad Madhusudan Dandawate, moved a petition before the Jalgaon district collector Aman Mittal in mid-May.

Dandawate, a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, claimed that the mosque was “illegally” built over a Hindu place of worship and that it should be taken over by state authorities.

The Jumma Masjid in Jalgaon’s Erandol. Photo: By arrangement

The Wire had earlier reported on the controversial order by the collector, which Trust members had alleged was passed without giving them a fair hearing. 

Following the collector’s interim restraint order, the Trust committee moved the Bombay high court and also made an additional representation before the collector for a just hearing.

The waqf board also sent its lawyer to point out that the collector had no jurisdiction to decide on the legality of the property as it is registered with the board.

Members of the Trust had earlier told The Wire that they were unaware of the claims made until they received a notice at the end of June. When they appeared before the collector’s office for a hearing, the committee alleged that it was not given a fair hearing.

As soon as the notice was issued, the Trust committee members approached the Jamiat-e-Ulama Maharashtra, a humanitarian organisation, for legal help.

“We had asked the committee to immediately move the high court against the collector’s order. We also wrote to waqf board chairman Wajahat Mirza and requested him to intervene immediately,” said advocate Shahid Nadeem of the Jamiat-e-Ulama.

District collector Mittal, who had scheduled a hearing on the matter today, has not deferred the hearing following the development in the high court.