Bill No. 53-CA of 2010, viz., the Wakf (Amendment) Bill, 2010 was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 19 August 2013. It amends the Wakf Act, 1995. We propose the following amendments when the bill goes back for debate in Lok Sabha during the current monsoon session:
(A) In Section 32 of the Bill:
(i) in clause (c): from the proviso proposed to be added, delete the following: "a lease or sub-lease for any period exceeding one year and".
(ii) After clause (c), add the following clause: "(d) No lease or sub-lease shall be granted other than on market rate of rent as prevalent at the time of granting the lease."
(B). In Section 11, clause (c), after the proposed newly inserted sub-section (5), add the following new sub-section: "(6) Secretary to the Council: There shall be a full-time Secretary to the Council, who shall be Muslim and shall be appointed by the Central Government by notification in the Official Gazette, from a panel of three names suggested by the Council and who shall not be below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India and in case of non-availability of a Muslim officer of that rank, a Muslim officer of equivalent rank may be appointed on deputation. The powers and functions of the Secretary shall be provided for in the Central Waqf Council Rules."
A (i) Lease: Ratification
Though not recommended either by JPC or Sachar Committee, the Bill provides for every proposed lease for a period exceeding one year or more to be forwarded by State Waqf Board to the State Government. In this way the entire leasing process has been placed at the mercy of the State Government curtailing the original powers of the State Waqf Board. This is in gross violation of standard practices prevalent in the country in respect of religious establishments pertaining to different faiths. This proposed provision needs to be deleted from the Bill.
A(ii) Lease: Fair Market Rate of Rent
Both Sachar Committee and JPC have recommended that the Waqf properties should be leased out at the prevailing market rate of rent. This has to be included by way of statutory provision in the Waqf Bill. However, this has not been done. This omission will lead to loss of thousands of cores of rupees of Waqf revenue, every year.
B. Undefined Status of the Secretary, Central Waqf Council
Acting on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, the Bill provides that the official status of the CEO of the State Wakf Board shall be at least of the level of Dy. Secretary to the State Government. On the other hand, regulatory powers have been given in the Bill to the Central Waqf Council by which it can monitor the activities of the State Waqf Boards. However, the official status of the Secretary, Central Waqf Council, remains undefined. This creates strong possibility that the Secretary, CWC, may be an officer below the rank of the CEO of the State Waqf Board. This will create avoidable incompatibility.
In order to pre-empt this anomaly, Sachar Committee recommended that the Secretary of the Central Waqf Council should be of the status of at least Joint Secretary to the Government of India. However, the Bill is silent in this regard.
The Bill needs to be amended to provide that the Secretary, CWC, shall be of the minimum level of Joint Secretary to the Government of India. That will enable him to effectively monitor the CEOs of the State Waqf Boards.
The author is former OSD, Prime Minister's High Level Committee (Sachar Committee) and President, Zakat Foundation of India, New Delhi. He may be contacted at email@example.com