On Ganesh Festival At Bengaluru Idgah Maidan, Big Supreme Court Hearing


On Ganesh Festival At Bengaluru Idgah Maidan, Big Supreme Court Hearing

New Delhi:

Karnataka Waqf Board’s opposition to use of Bengaluru’s Idgah Maidan for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations reached the Supreme Court today, where two judges differed with each other, so a three-judge bench is hearing it to possibly end the deadlock by the evening. Since the festival is tomorrow and day after, an urgent hearing was requested and granted.

The state government — which can give permission for setting up festival pandals — had argued that it could be heard the day after tomorrow.

“No religious event from any other community has been held in this property,” the board argued. “This property has been declared as Waqf Property as per the 1954 Act,” it added. 

“Suddenly in 2022, they say that it’s disputed land and they want to hold Ganesh Chaturthi festival here,” the board’s lawyer, Kapil Sibal, further said.

One of the board’s points is that the Hindu festival in a space owned by the Muslim organisation is being held “with elections due next year”, hinting at political motives. Elections to the city municipal corporation — Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike or BBMP — are scheduled in 2023. 

Karnataka has seen some communal violence in recent months, which has even led to demands that BJP should remove Basavaraj Bommai as Chief Minister.

Earlier, before the two-judge bench, the board said it permission had not been taken for the festival setup. “The land title is in the board’s name, since 1881,” the lawyer stressed. When the bench asked how Independence Day and other celebrations had been held on the ground earlier, he replied, “It’s by consent. Even children are allowed to play… But now the order is for a religious function.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the state government. “Ownership of the land was never questioned earlier. This is an open land with no boundaries,” he said. “Kindly permit the government to use the land for tomorrow and the day after. The state will take care of any threat perception,” he told the court.

The waqf board said the matter should be decided on urgently as “it will become infructuous if not heard today”.

The two-judge bench — Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia — then referred the issue to the Chief Justice, 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 bench said.

CJI UU Lalit later listed it before a three-judge bench — Justices Indira Bannerjee, AS Oka and MM Sunderesh — after seeking some to discuss “with the judges available”.

The board’s plea is actually an appeal against an August 26 order by the Karnataka High Court, which allowed the government to take a decision on the ground’s use.

While seeking urgent hearing at the Supreme Court, the waqf board said “unnecessary tensions will be created” if the matter was not taken up immediately. Mr Sibal argued that the land has been used by Muslims for decades.

Even the High Court had originally agreed with the board — a single-judge bench said the land could be used only as a playground and for Independence Day and Republic Day by the government or municipal bodies. The Muslim community could pray there on both Eids, it had said. But, upon appeal, a larger bench of the High Court later ruled that the government has the authority to grant permissions.

News reports said certain Hindu organisations would get the permission for Ganesh Chaturthi pandals on Wednesday and Thursday.


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