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Amendment Bill takes away Waqf properties from Muslim domain

Minority Ministry over-rules Sachar Committee and JPC

Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India
New Delhi

While framing the Waqf Bill 2010, the Ministry of Minority Affairs has provided that where the line of succession of Mutawalli (person responsible for a certain waqf property) fails, the income of the waqf shall be spent for education, development and welfare of the community.

However, the word ‘community’ has not been defined anywhere in the proposed Bill or the existing Waqf Act of 1995. This leaves scope for the judiciary to dilute the meanings of the word ‘community’.

Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India says that the word ‘community’ must be replaced in the Waqf Bill 2010 by the group of words “Muslim Community of India”. Otherwise, the waqf properties, in addition to being widely encroached, shall no longer be available for Muslim welfare.

Secondly, as per the existing Waqf Act of 1995, the CEOs of State Waqf Boards have to be Muslim. But the number of Muslims in Indian bureaucracy is not more than 2.5%. Hence, the CEO positions are manned by retired low level government employees, inexperienced public men, or rarely by government officers but only with additional charge of the waqf board. This information was collected by the Sachar Committee in 2006. However, Zakat Foundation of India again collected from the State Waqf Boards fresh information in this regard in 2011 under Right to Information Act. The condition remains equally pathetic till now. Because of the CEO not being a high ranking officer, the work of the state waqf boards suffers. As per Sachar Committee, the CEO should rank with senior state government officers so that the Board enjoys sufficient clout with the government in day to day interaction.

Therefore, the Sachar Committee suggested that a new cadre of officers, (may be named as Indian Waqf Service), should be created for which UPSC should select such candidates as are conversant with waqf related requirements. The proposal is well-considered and fully fits into the constitutional scheme. Yet, the Ministry of Minority Affairs over-ruled this vital Sachar recommendation without giving any cogent reason. No deep research was done on the subject. At the level of Waqf Minister, Prime Minister or the Cabinet the pros and cons of this issue were not discussed. A brief unthoughtful and prejudiced note of a few words written by a low level official of the Ministry was dittoed till the top without proper examination.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Waqfs recommended that the CEO should be atleast of the rank of Director in the state government. But while framing the Waqf Bill 2010, the Ministry of Minority Affairs over-ruled even the JPC and doubly lowered the level of CEO down to Under Secretary in the state government.

The Government must create Indian Waqf Service. Till that happens, as recommended by the JPC, the CEO must rank with atleast Director in the state government (above the deputy secretary).

Thirdly, the definition of the word ‘encroacher’ as proposed by Sachar Committee has also been watered down by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The following portion, proposed by Sachar Committee has not been included by the Ministry in the Waqf Bill: “or who has altered the property leased out to or occupied by him without the prior written permission of the Wakf Board concerned”. The ‘Statements of Objects and Reasons’ submitted by the Minority Affairs Ministry to the Parliament alongwith the proposed Amendment Bill are silent on these vital issues of omission and commission.

Zakat Foundation of India has demanded that the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha currently looking into the Waqf Bill 2010, the Prime Minister and the UPA chairperson must prevail upon the Ministry of Minority Affairs and must ensure that necessary amendments are made in the Bill before it is considered by the Rajya Sabha.