Special Reports

Concerned Muslims renew efforts to reclaim 123 prime Waqf properties

New Delhi: Under the aegis of the New India Foundation, concerned Muslims have decided to intensify efforts to reclaim 123 prime waqf properties spread across Delhi which are still in legal tangle due to the apathy of the Union Ministry for Minority Affairs (MMA). They said that there is an urgent need for the community to take up the matter as it is a long pending issue. A representative delegation of Muslims would approach Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in this regard.

At a meeting held here to chalk out a strategy for reclaiming the said properties, participants expressed their disappointment over the inept handling of the problem by the MMA. Former Cabinet Secretary Zafar Saifullah, who presided over the meeting, observed that it was the duty of every Muslim to protect and care for waqf properties. “If we fail in this task, we would not be entitled to call ourselves Muslims.”  He said the community needs to be vigilant about the waqf issue as these properties are vested in the name of God.   

It is to be noted that the problem of 123 waqf properties that ought to be transferred to the Delhi Waqf Board from various government departments has been lingering since 1984 when the central government, in accordance with the Burney Committee recommendations, had decided to hand over these properties to the Delhi Waqf Board. Although, the Burney Committee had identified 250 waqf properties, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had announced that only 123 properties would be given to the waqf board. These included Masjid Abdul Nabi at ITO, Ghata Masjid at Daryagnaj, a huge land adjacent to the Delhi Public School at Mathura road, a graveyard at the outer circle of the Connaught Place.  On March 27, 1984, the Centre had issued a notification but it was a flawed one. It was immediately challenged in Delhi High Court. The court stayed the transfer and it had continued so for more than a quarter century. However, during the course of hearing in early 2008, learned judges enquired about the paraphrasing of the notification of the Ministry of Works & Housing dated March 27, 1984 stating, “The transfer will be on perpetual leasehold basis”. The judges were of the opinion that the Waqf properties are vested in the name of God and therefore, the Government of India cannot be the owner of such properties. Therefore, in case the Government considers these properties as Waqf, which are stated to be religious in nature such as Mosque, Dargah, Graveyard etc., they should have transferred/handed over the properties to the Waqf Board as Waqf properties and not on “perpetual leasehold basis”.

From the facts on record, it was clear that there was an inherent contradiction in retaining the ownership of the Waqf properties while transferring them to the Delhi Waqf Board on lease basis. The Court was surprised by this clause and desired that the Additional Solicitor General may get specific advice from the Government of India and convey the stand of the Government to the Court. Immediately, on the initiative of Central Waqf Council, a meeting was held on April 7, 2008 at the (then) Minister of Urban Affairs Jaipal Reddy’s office. He indicated that the necessary decision in this regard could be taken only by a group of ministers to be constituted for this purpose.

Former Secretary, Central Waqf Council, Dr. M R Haque said the CWC vigorously pursued the matter during his tenure but nothing came out of it. Terming the wording of the notification as a “deliberate attempt”, Zafar Saifullah said the government should be persuaded to issue a new notification as these properties were taken over by the British government to build the new capital in 1913-14.  

Since the decision of Centre clarifying its stand was not forthcoming, the Delhi High Court, on January  12, 2011, disposed of the Writ Petition (C) No.1512 of 1984 related to the 123 waqf properties of Delhi, directing the Government to take a final decision in the matter within six  months  and  parties  were  also  directed to maintain status-quo till then. The Government has taken extensions since but has not come out with its final stand so far. In the meantime, there are reports of encroachments on these properties. Criticizing the MMA over its silence on the issue, the meeting observed that it is the nodal ministry in matters related to waqf.

Welfare Party president Mujtaba Farooq suggested forming an action committee in order to pursue the matter in a coordinated way. While lambasting the ASI for its dereliction of duty, former Delhi state minority commission chairman Kamal Faruqi said he had a list of 31 mosques where all sorts of unethical practices were going on. He insisted that the ASI act did not prohibit offering ‘namaz’ in these protected mosques.

Speakers came down heavily on the Delhi Waqf Board for its lack of concern for these 123 properties. Jamiat Ulema-e Hind (Arshad) leader Maulana Abdul Razzaq charged Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid with misusing his powers. He said the minister has written a recommendatory letter to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi to hand over a piece of waqf land situated at Mehruli to a Congress leader. “When we contacted the Minister, he told us that ‘the said Congress worker helped his Party a lot in winning the election’”, he added. Reportedly, the Waqf Board is not pursuing the case properly because of the minister’s recommendation. The meeting was attended by a representatives of a number of Muslim organisations and prominent individuals of Delhi including Dr Qasim Rasool Ilyas, Maulana Fazalur Rahman Mujadadi, Dr Shakil Zaman and others.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 September 2012 on page no. 4

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