No Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru, rules SC

Noting that no such function was organized at Idgah Maidan for the past 200 years, the top court asked the parties to approach the Karnataka High Court for the resolution of the dispute

Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India


Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at Bengaluru's Idgah Maidan will not be held, the Supreme Court held on Tuesday while refusing to grant permission for the function and ordered status quo on land by both parties.

Noting that no such function as Ganesh Chaturthi was organised at Idgah Maidan for the past 200 years, the top court asked the parties to approach the Karnataka High Court for the resolution of the dispute.

In a special hearing held at 4:45 PM, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Indira Banerjee observed that the event be held somewhere else.

"The writ petition is pending before the Single Bench of the High Court and has been fixed for hearing on September 23, 2022. All questions/issues may be agitated in the High Court. In the meanwhile, status quo, as of date, with regard to the land in question shall be maintained by both the parties. The special leave petitions are, accordingly, disposed of," the bench also comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and M M Sundresh said.

The top court was hearing an appeal filed by the Central Muslim Association of Karnataka and Karnataka Waqf Board challenging the order of the High Court.

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.

Earlier in the day, Chief Justice of India U U Lalit constituted a three-judge bench to hear a plea by the Karnataka Waqf Board and Central Muslim Association of Karnataka challenging the High Court's order which allowed the use of Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.

The order came after a two-judge bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia referred the issue to CJI citing a difference of opinion.

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, "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."

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, also appearing for Karnataka, 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.

The division bench of the Karnataka High Court had said that religious and cultural activities can be allowed by the government there, but for a limited period from August 31.

The Single Judge had ordered that the two-acre parcel of land should be used only as a playground and Muslims should be allowed to pray there on only two festivals of Bakrid and Ramzan till the case was disposed of.

The Hindu organisations sought permission for holding the Ganesh Chaturthi festival at the maidan.

The Joint Commissioner (west) of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had ruled that the property belonged to the Revenue Department following the civic body's Chief Commissioner's directions to verify the ownership of the land.

However, the Karnataka State Board of AUQAF and District Waqf Officer, Bengaluru challenged the August 7 order of the Joint Commissioner before the Single Judge, who had ordered status quo.

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