Shopping malls, high-rise towers built on waqf land in Maharashtra

By Rehan Ansari,,

[Second of the four-part series on waqf properties in Maharashtra]

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Mumbai: Three multi-storey towers consisting flats worth hundreds of crores of rupees and a three-storey shopping mall worth Rs 300 crore are standing on a waqf property of Haji Zakariya Ahmed Patel Mohammadan Orphanage & Asylum Trust in Mumbai Central, a prime locality as far as rates of properties are concerned.

The piece of 13837.06 of land having Cadastral Survey No.243 was sold by the Trustees in a meager Rs. one crore in September 2004 to a builder M/S. Neel Kamal Realtors & Builders Pvt. Ltd.

This property was donated in 1907 and a scheme was drafted in Bombay High Court Suit no. 882 of 1907 for the Muslim orphanage and therefore it’s a waqf property. Later on, in 1935, this property was given on lease to Mr. Jehangir Hormusji Sorabji and Manek Hormusji Sorabji for 5 years and then extended till 1954. At present, records show that it was subleased to nearly 250 tenants.

In order to sell this waqf property one of the Trustees Mr. Rashid Oomer filed an affidavit and accepted, “the original title documents in respect of the property in question have been misplaced by the Trust.” He further claimed in the affidavit that the aforesaid property is “Secular in nature” and does not differentiate on the basis of caste, creed and religion.

To facilitate the sale then CEO of Maharashtra waqf board issued gazette 17-A on 5th May 2005, for which he had no right, whereby many prime properties of waqf along with the property of Haji Zakariya Ahmed Patel are deleted. Mr. Hamid Khan, a sub lessee of this property, claimed that, “it’s a clear fraud.” He showed the gazette No.46 of Waqf properties issued on 13 November 2003, whereby this property is mentioned.

He also alleged, “Based on the gazette 17-A, Charity Commissioner has issued NOC for the sale of many waqf properties.” When Mr. Hamid Khan filed an RTI about the gazette the concern authority replied that they can’t confirm whether the gazette no.17-A issued on 5th May, 2005 is right or wrong.

Finally due to this irregularity, Mr. S.S. Ali Kadri, the recent CEO cancelled the second gazette no. 17-A by his notification No. MSBW/REG-240/3805/2008 dated 7th October, 2008.

After the complaint Mr. S.S. Ali Kadri, along with his team has visited the said property on 20th July, 2010 and submitted its report to the Principal Secretary Ms. Thanksee Thackerkar.

Mr. Ibrahim Gaya, Chairman of the Trust said, “We had no option but to give our consent to sale of the property. Lease of the properties were in the name of Mr. Sorabji for the 99 years and after its expiry it did not get extended. He used to pay us the rent of Rs.2250, but after the sale we got a crore and a shop in the shopping Mall. Now we are getting monthly income of Rs.2.25 lacs as a rent.”

When told that Waqf properties cannot be sold he replied, “This property was registered under the Bombay Public Trust act.”