Wakf: Victim of governments and Muslim Community

By Abdul Bari Masoud,

“Encroachment of Wakf properties has taken place on a massive scale. It is estimated that nearly 70 to 80 per cent of valuable Wakf properties worth several thousands crore rupees spreading all over the country have been encroached upon or illegally occupied.”

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“Metro cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Banglore, Hydrebad, Mumbai and other major cities have prime Wakf properties which would be worth several thousand crores such as Windsor Manner Hotel of Banglore, Tolly Ganj Club of Kolkata, Shaw Wallace Building at Kolkata, nearly four thousand acres of land in the hi-tech city and near the airport of Hyderabad and another four thousand acres of land in Vizag, after some of it was allocated to NTPC and Hindujas….In the capital city of Delhi alone there are several Wakf properties in the fully developed commercial areas.”

This disclosure was made by the joint parliamentary committee of Wakf in its 9th report which was also tabled in the both Houses of the Parliament. The committee, headed by deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha Mr K Rahman Khan, expresses grave concern and deplores in the strongest term on the indifferent attitude of the Centre and the state governments, the malfunctioning of the state Wakf Boards and the apathy of Muslim community towards the misuse of Wakf. The comprehensive report spreading over 195-pages dealt with whole gamut of issues pertaining to Wakf including:

1. to ascertain the status of implementation of the Wakf act, 1995 by various state governments.
2. to suggest such amendments to the Wakf act, 1995, so as to achieve its objective including retrieval of Wakf properties encroach upon.
3. to examine the functioning of the Central Wakf Council
4. to look into the working of the state Wakf Boards.

The report has graphically mapped the details of the encroachment taken place across the country. For example, the Andhra Pradesh Wakf Board which boasts the highest number of Wakf properties has the dubious distinction of illegal possession. In the state there are 35,703 units of Wakf properties having area of 1, 45,544 acres of which 5,599 units having 81,591 acres area are encroached upon. The state government is major encroacher of the Wakf. The AP Wakf Board, existing for over 40 years, has not been able remove illegal occupation on Wakf properties. Neither the Board ever bothered to develop it and enhance its income.

In West Bengal, where the Left Front is in power since 70s, out of 8070 Wakf units 104 are under illegal possession. In one of the Wakf property office is situated at Belilious Road 24/1, Munshipara Lane and 17 bighas are under encroached upon. Furthermore, 64 mosques have been illegally occupied and 100 mosques in Kolkata, Howrah and 19 and 20 Bagmari Road, Kolkata are under encroachment.

The Dehli Wakf Board has furnished the committee a list of encroached properties numbering 685 of which 373 encroached by the public while 114 by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). Then, another 172 properties are under the control of ASI and 26 properties are held by different government agencies. The report further states that 123 properties were in prime locations — including Connaught Place, NDMC and MCD areas — which the Central government had transferred to the Delhi Wakf Board but they are still under litigation for more than two decades. In the whole country more than 833 Wakf units have been occupied by the different agencies under the Central and the state governments. One major reason given by the committee for this illegal occupation is that the state government assumed a large area of landed properties, which was granted to the Wakf institutions by the erstwhile rulers, for the maintenance of the Wakf institutions, by means of Inam or Jagirs, by invoking the provision of Inam Aboition or the Jagir Abolition Act or the Land Reforms Act and not treating the land as permanent dedications. Notwithstanding, the Supreme Court’s ruling, that ‘once a Wakf, always a Wakf’.

The committee also observes that certain state governments and its agencies including local government authorities are resorting to compulsory acquisition of Wakf for purposes other than public interest. One such example is Wakf property situated in Chauma Village, Tehsil Gurgaon, District Gurgaon, Haryana measuring about 2.5 acres with Khasra Nos 53 and 54. The committee visited this land during an on-the-spot study and noticed that the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) acquired this property by offering a meagre compensation. The report emphasizes that a Wakf property cannot be acquired by any government agency.

For retrieving the Wakf properties or removing the illegal possession, the report asks for setting up of a Wakf tribunal. It says the Wakf Board being a part of state administration, my find it difficult to contest cases against their own governments. Therefore, the report suggests for resolving the disputes amicably through the Wakf tribunals. One method of resolving the dispute, as the report suggests, is to jointly develop such property and share the revenue.

The committee demands the government to amend the Wakf Act 1995 as the existing clauses did not adequately empower the authority to act on the encroachers. It recommends making encroachment of Wakf properties a criminal offence as has been done in West Bengal. The committee expresses concerns over the reports of chairmen of certain Wakf boards signing lease orders in contravention of the Wakf Act that does not invest any such authority to chairman. It further notes that leasing of Wakf properties have indiscriminately been done in the Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and NCT of Delhi. The committee strongly demands that such contracts should be “cancelled forthwith” treating them as “illegal.” It also asks the Central Wakf Council to prepare a Uniform Leasing Policy for all Wakf Boards in consultation with the Ministry of Minority Affairs. To resolve the long pending land disputes, the committee strongly recommends for the setting up of a Dispute Resolution Authority. The suggested Authority may consist of a judge of the High Court, a retired senior administrative officer not below the rank of the Chief Secretary of a State and a nominee of Wakf Board.

The Committee deplores the financial position of state Wakf Boards as well as non-constitution of Wakf Boards in several major states. It finds no state government ‘serious in addressing financial problems’ of boards which are carrying out their responsibilities in the absence of adequate resources and infrastructure. For better and smooth functioning of the Wakf properties, the committee notes that Jammu and Kashmir Wakf Act, 1978 provides for constitution of Tehsil Wakf Committees in view of this it proposes for setting up of Tehsil or Taluka level Committee for better management of the Wakf at local level. The committee also asks for the computerization of Wakf Boards and creation of central data base. For this, it demands the Central government to provide a one-time grant of Rs 25 crore to the Central Wakf Council.

On the development of Wakf properties it says with the present state of Wakf Boards and its administrative set up, the dream of realizing development cannot be achieved and will remain on paper only. It says the Central government, state government and the Muslim community fail to address seriously this problem.

The Committee comes down heavily on the Muslim community for not taking any interest in preventing the misuse of valuable Wakf properties. The report says, “Muslim community has remained silent spectators to the exploitation of Wakf properties by vested interests and has only remained contended by voicing its concern over the apathy regarding the Wakf and step motherly treatment by the government. Though under the Wakf Act, the entire management is into the hands of Muslims and the Mutawaallis, the misuse of majority of Wakf properties has been done by the Muslim themselves and, therefore, it is but appropriate that the community should take the blame for the present state of affairs.” It strongly recommends that the government should enact in “stringent legal measure to punish those Mutawallis who are using the Wakf properties for their personal benefits.” Further it says that a fresh survey of the Wakf properties throughout the country as mandated in the Wakf Act 1995 for, a large number of Wakf properties are left out across the country which are required to be registered.

The Committee has so far presented eight reports to the Parliament. Seven reports were on implementation of the Wakf Act 1995 and the working of the Wakf Boards relating to the states of West Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. One report relates to amendments of the Wakf Act 1995. The present committee consists of 30 members — 10 from Rajya Sabha and 20 from Lok Sabha.