Supreme Court Orders to Maintain Status Quo on Mosque in Allahabad HC Complex

Author-Shreya Kalyani, [Chanakya National Law University, Patna]

The Supreme Court has ordered to maintain status quo in the case relating to the removal of a mosque situated in the Allahabad High Court complex.

The Supreme Court has ordered to maintain status quo in the case relating to the removal of a mosque situated in the Allahabad High Court complex.The allegation of encroachment was initially made against Waqf. Wakf constructed a Masjid on the portion of the plot, towards it’s south-west corner, known as “Masjid High Court”. The land in dispute is situated near the main building of the High Court adjacent to the nine-storied newly constructed building of the high court office on the Kanpur Road. A PIL was filed by a high court lawyer, Abhishek Shukla which was before a division bench comprising of Chief Justice Dilip Babasaheb Bhosale and Justice Manoj Kumar Gupta.

One major question arose as to whether wakf perfected title to the site in dispute by adverse possession resulting in extinguishment of the title of the High Court by operation of Section 27 of the Limitation Act. It was argued that a claim based on adverse possession requires clear and categorical pleadings and evidence, much more so, if it is against the Government.  The case of adverse possession is always based on the theory or presumption that the owner has abandoned the property to the adverse possessor on the acquiescence of the owner to the hostile acts and claims of the person in possession.  The principle of law is firmly established that a person, who bases his title on adverse possession, must specifically plead and also prove by clear and unequivocal evidence that his possession was hostile to the real owner and amounted to a denial of his title to the property claimed. Mere possession for howsoever length of time, does not get ripened into adverse possession, unless the possessor had animus possidendi to hold the land adverse to the title of true owner.  there is no specific pleading by these respondents when their alleged possession became adverse, nor the date since when it was being openly claimed as hostile to the true owner.  Having regard to these facts and the principles laid down on the subject in various judgment cited above, the plea of adverse possession or extinguishment of right and title of the State or the High Court, in view of Section 27 of the Limitation Act, was rejected.

Allahabad High Court had arrived at a conclusion that, “the unauthorized possession, as well as the unauthorized structures existing over the site in dispute, cannot be permitted to continue any longer”. The High Court had also noted in its judgment that the there is an “acute crunch of space” in the Court and observed that the Waqf property is causing hindrance to the movement of the fire brigade in the premises of the High Court. It was also observed that due to the increase in the number of Judges and the shortage of space, the High Court could not arrange separate chambers for twelve judges, who are sharing six chambers. It also told the apex court that it does not have an alternative plot of land for relocating a mosque situated in the premises and the state may consider shifting it to another land. They directed the Wakf to vacate the site encroached and peacefully hand over its possession to the High Court.

It also directed that on making an application to the State/ District Administration, within four weeks, seeking allotment of an alternative site, the State/District Administration shall deal with the application sympathetically, in accordance with law, within eight weeks from the date of the application. The Registrar General of the Court was directed to ensure that in future no part of the High Court premises, either at Allahabad or at Lucknow, is permitted to be used for practicing religion or offering prayers or to worship or to carry on any religious activity by any group of persons. The court also directed that while handing over the possession of the site, the wakf shall also remove all structures standing on it.

The Wakf Board had moved to the Apex Court challenging November 8, 2017, Allahabad High Court order directing the removal of the mosque from the court premises. Congress leader and advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of the Wakf Board said that the Supreme Court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to find a solution to the problem but nothing happened.He said the mosque has been there since the 1950s and it cannot be just asked to move out. The high court area has expanded due to which they want to remove the mosque, he said. When the bench said it was issuing notice on the plea, Sibal said the court should also order a status quo as the mosque cannot be demolished like this. The bench agreed to Sibal’s submissions and said that the status quo be maintained there.

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