SC Halts Government’s Plans for Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations at Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru

The top court asked both parties to maintain status quo on land use.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday halted the Karnata government’s plans to use the Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru’s Chamarajpet for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, overturning a high court order.

According to LiveLaw, the bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee, A.S. Oka, and M.M. Sundresh orally remarked, “For 200 years it was not done, you also admit, so why not status quo, for 200 years whatever was not held, let it be.”

The pooja – which will be held on Wednesday – can be held somewhere else, the bench said.

“Issues raised in the SLP [special leave petition] may be agitated by both parties before HC. In the meanwhile status quo as of today be maintained by both sides. SLP is disposed of,” the bench ordered, according to LiveLaw.

Earlier, Chief Justice of India U.U. Tuesday constituted the three-judge bench to hear the Karnataka Waqf Board’s plea challenging the high court order which allowed the use of Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. The bench was constituted because a two-judge bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia referred the issue to CJI citing a difference of opinion.

“Heard the parties at some length. Neither the hearing could conclude nor any consensus could be reached between the bench. Let the matter be listed before the CJI, ” the two-judge bench had said.

A division bench of the Karnataka high court on August 26 permitted the state government to consider and pass appropriate orders on the applications received by the deputy commissioner of Bengaluru (Urban) seeking the use of Idgah Maidan at Chamarajpet.

While the Waqf board claimed that they have been in uninterrupted possession of the land since 1871. It was used as a place of worship and graveyard, they argued before the three-judge bench. “Article 25 and 26 expressly protects right of religious minorities to possess their properties,” the counsel argued.

However, the state government argued that it owned the land.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, submitted before the three-judge bench that it is an admitted position that no religious function has been performed of any other community at the Idgah Maidan for the last 200 years.

Sibal said Idgah is Waqf’s property and there is an attempt to change the character of Maidan.

“The Supreme Court judgement established that Muslims were in possession and that it was an Idgah and that the municipal corporation had no right over the same. We don’t speak of politics in court but this reeks of something. What is the atmosphere being created? Suddenly they say it is the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike ground?” he said.

At this, the bench asked, “If the grievance is only against Ganesh Chaturthi or any other function as well.”

Sibal replied that they have an objection against the use of the land for any other purpose.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, also appearing for the petitioners, argued that Muslims have the right to administer their waqf property and the state government cannot interfere.

“My lords, don’t give the impression to religious minorities that their rights can be trampled,” he said.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state government, said that for the past 200 years, the Idgah land was used as a playground for children and all revenue entries are in the name of the State.

He said the Waqf Board is not in “exclusive possession” of the Idgah land.

“What is that the High Court has done? Every part of this country you have festivals. In Bengal, you have Durga Puja, in Maharashtra, roads are closed for Ganesh Chaturthi. One should be broad-minded. What is going to happen if Ganesh Chaturthi is allowed for two days,” he submitted adding that “Can somebody say no because it is a Hindu festival?”

Dave suddenly got up and asked. “I wonder if, in any temple in this country, a minority community will be allowed for prayers.”

During the hearing, Justice Oka asked senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the state whether in the past, the government or the municipal corporation Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has allowed this festival on the land. Rohatgi responded in the negative but said “even if it was not used in the past, it cannot be an argument to say it cannot be used now”, according to LiveLaw.

Sibal, appearing for the Waqf Board, submitted that the land was declared Waqf property by the Mysore State Wakf Board under Section 5(2) of the Wakf Act. “Under the Waqf Act, if somebody has to challenge it, it has to be challenged it within 6 months. Nobody has challenged. And in 2022, the dispute is raised,” LiveLaw quoted him as saying.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, also appearing for the State, made a proposal to allow Ganesh Puja for two days and said the rest of the issues can be decided later. Mehta said the state government would undertake to take care of the law and order situation in the area.

Dave again interjected and said, “Uttar Pradesh chief minister had also given an assurance to this court but Babri mosque was still demolished.”

The apex court sought to know if any preparations have been done at the land for the celebrations tomorrow. Rohatgi replied in the negative.

(With PTI inputs)