State Trumps Religion As Delhi Government Supersedes Wakf Board

22/10/2015 9:14 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Delhi state Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and leader of Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man's Party attends a public meeting to mark the party’s 100 days government in the capital, in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

In what could invite allegations of the state interfering in matters of religion, Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party government has "superseded" the Delhi Wakf Board, and transferred all its powers and duties to the city's revenue secretary.

"In exercise of the powers conferred under Section 99(I) of the Wakf Act, 1995, the government of NCT of Delhi hereby supersedes the Delhi Wakf Board with immediate effect for a period of six months," the Times of India quoted a notification issued by revenue secretary A Ambarasu on October 10, 2015.

Presently there are thirty Wakf Boards across the country in twenty-eight states/Union territories. According to Muslim law, Waqf properties--or land given away for religious and philanthropic purposes--are managed by state-level boards, who are answerable to a Central Wakf Council. This is headed by a Chairperson, currently Union Minister for Minority Affairs. She's supported by 20 other members, appointed by Government of India as stipulated in the Wakf Act.

According to a 2011 Sachar Committee report on Muslims in India, Wakf properties constitute a land bank worth Rs. 1.2 lakh crore and can potentially generate annual returns of Rs. 12,000 crore but yield only Rs. 163 crore.

The Delhi Wakf Board has not taken Kejriwal's move lightly. Rana Parween Siddiqui, chairperson of the board, said she has "filed an appeal in the Delhi high court seeking quashing of the notification. The court will hear the case on October 30."

Rana was elected as chairperson of the Delhi Waqf Board in a meeting of members of the Board on January 20.

"There are a total of seven members of Delhi Waqf Board. At the time of my election, there were only six members out of whom four elected me as chairperson of the Board," she said.

However, her election was not notified by Delhi government, against which she filed the petition in Delhi high court.

The court in its order on April 29 had directed the respondent Delhi government to maintain status quo vis a vis position of the chairperson until further hearing.

"The notification issued by the government superseding Delhi Waqf Board despite the status quo order by the high court is a clear case of contempt of court. I will move a separate application in the court regarding this, " she added.

(With inputs from PTI)

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