Gujarat HC rescinds Waqf order stopping railway line near a dargah

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The Gujarat High Court overturned the order of the Gujarat State Waqf Court, which halted the construction of a railway near Firoz Saheb ni dargah in Rajpur Hirpur locality in Maninagar Taluka of Ahmedabad, Live Law reported.

Dargah administrator named Shaikh Onali Ismailji (Visawaarwala) had moved the court from the State Waqf Council, seeking a restraining order against the collector and his servants from damaging the ‘property’ and interfering with the movement of devotees in and out of the dargah.

He had claimed that the dargah had 4 constructions and had witnessed regular attendance by devotees. Shaikh had argued that the construction of a railway line would prevent worshipers from offering prayers at the “shrine”.

The requesting authority (collector) had argued that the construction of the railway line had started only after receiving the appropriate sanctions. He added that the railway line was in the best interests of the public and that it would pass through the path of the dargah and not through the “shrine”.

The plaintiff also informed that the dargah administrators refused to negotiate or develop alternative plans and instead approached the State Waqf Court with “incorrect facts”.

The Gujarat State Waqf Court had granted an injunction, favoring dargah ‘trustee’ Shaikh Onali Ismailji (Visawaarwala) and ordered the District Collector to seek permission from the Waqf Board for the acquisition of land and the construction of railway lines.

Aggrieved by the Tribunal’s “erroneous” and “premature” order, the requesting authority appealed to the High Court of Gujarat. The case was heard by a single judge bench of Judge Umesh Trivedi of the Gujarat High Court.

Submissions made by Gujarat High Court on dargah’s plea

During the hearing, it emerged that the administrator of the dargah had not provided any document that could prove that the Islamic shrine was indeed a waqf property. Moreover, it emerged that Shaikh Onali Ismailji (Visawaarwala) was not an ‘administrator’ but a ‘manager’ of the dargah trust.

“The defendant could be categorized as a ‘person interested in the Waqf but he had no right to sue for ownership rights over the property itself,’ the court observed.

He said the railway track was not laid on dargah’s property and as such the Waqf court’s injunction was ‘unwarranted’. The Court held that the proximity of a dargah to railway land did not automatically imply that the surrounding land belonged to the authorities of the dargah.

The Gujarat High Court also noted [pdf] that the Tribunal’s order also hindered a project at the national level and thus quashed its injunction, as it lacked jurisdiction.

“What is alleged is that it (the construction project) obstructs access to the dargah and is within two railway tracks if allowed to lay it,” the court pointed out.

“It is not the case of the plaintiff in the lawsuit itself that the railway track is laid from the dargah or from a property of a dargah, and therefore the relief awarded by the Tribunal, prima facie, seems to be unjustified, restricting the National Project for the Construction of a 3rd Broad Gauge Railway. This also when, on both sides, the project is already finished within a few meters because of this dispute,” he pointed out.

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