Delhi HC to hear objections to Imam Bukhari naming son as deputy

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court is scheduled to hear three separate petitions on Thursday, 20 November, seeking a stay on the dastarbandi ceremony (anointment) of the son of Jama Masjid’s “Shahi Imam” Ahmed Bukhari as the “deputy” or naib Imam. The Imam of India’s largest mosque had recently created a stir by announcing that his 19-year-old son- Shaban Bukhari would be appointed the deputy Imam. He had later said that the dastarbandi was a “private religious ceremony”.  The Shahi Imam who has been holding the prestigious post since 2000 had said, Shaban Bukhari was picked for the influential post due to his “strong inclination” toward humanities besides his religious capabilities.

However, the Centre represented by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) on Wednesday, 19 November questioned in Delhi high court the Shahi Imam's move to anoint his son, saying Jama Masjid is a Wakf property and the process to decide how the rule of primogeniture applies to anointment of the new Imam is yet to be decided. 

The three separate pleas filed against the Delhi Shahi Imam- by Suhail Ahmed Khan, Ajay Gautam and advocate V K Anand, said, being an employee of Delhi Wakf Board, Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari (Shahi Imam) cannot appoint his son Naib Imam. The pleas contended that the Board is the only authority to appoint the next Imam of Jama Masjid. 

Bukhari had stirred up another controversy by announcing that he had invited Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif to the anointment ceremony but that he had not invited Narendra Modi. “It is irrelevant who is invited and who is not. It's disturbing how we treat our history," the Centre told the bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw. The pleas also asked the court to direct the ASI and central government to declare Jama Masjid a protected monument. 

The petitions said Shahi Imam had announced on October 30 that the ceremony of dastarbandi would be held on November 22. “Despite knowing that Shahi Imam is an employee of Wakf Board and it's the board which has the right to appoint an Imam, he (Bukhari) has declared his 19-year-old son a Naib Imam and is holding a dastarbandi ceremony for the said purpose, which is purely anti-Islamic,” the pleas said. 

The PILs have asked the court to declare invalid the appointment of Bukhari as Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid and alleged there is "complete anarchy and misuse of power" by him. Alleging illegal construction within Masjid premises, one of the pleas even sought a CBI probe.  

Meanwhile, Syed Ahmed Bukhari told the Press Trust of India in October that “the Imamat of the Jama Masjid has been continuing in the family from generation to generation.” He claimed that for nearly 400 years, this has been the tradition. Jama Masjid’s history he said dates back to 1656, when Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari was conferred the title of Shahi Imam by then Mughal emperor Shahjahan. He was sent to Delhi by the Shah of Bukhara, then Emperor of Uzbekistan, following a request from Shahjahan. 

“The first namaz took place in 1656 and it was then Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari was conferred the title of Shahi Imam. From that day, in accordance to Shahjahan’s wish, the Imamat of the Jama Masjid has been continuing in the family from generation to generation,” he said. 

The Shahi Imam also said that “I was appointed as the Nayab Shahi Imam in 1973 by my grandfather and I was appointed as the Shahi Imam in 2000. Similarly I will groom my son.” 

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