The Union Ministery of Urban Development notified the Wakf Board to vacate 123 properties including the Jama Masjid, on 22nd August. The Jama Masjid was assigned to the Wakf Board at the time of the Manmohan Singh government. The action was taken after the ministry, in February this year decided to take control over the 123 Wakf board possessions including mosques, dargahs, and cemeteries, based on the report of a two-member panel.
According to the two-member commission under the leadership of retired Justice S P Garg, the report claimed that no representation or objection was received from the Delhi Wakf Board as stated by the Land and Development Office (L&DO) of the union ministry. Adding to this the L&DO letter said, “From the above facts, it is obvious that the Delhi Wakf Board does not have any stake in the properties that are listed, neither they have any interest in the properties nor they have filed any objections or affirmations. It is, therefore, decided to vindicate Delhi Wakf Board from all affairs related to ‘123 Wakf Properties’.”
The Delhi High Court instructed the Union government to carry out a physical inspection of 123 properties, possession of which is being asserted by the Delhi Wakf Board in May. The decision aroused a sharp response from Amanatullah Khan, an Aam Aadmi Party MLA and board Chairman who said that the decision induced widespread stress, fear, and grievance among the Muslim society.
Wakf in India is as old as the early days of the Delhi Sultanate when Sultan Muizuddin Sam Ghaor reserved two villages in favour of the Multan’s Jama Masjid and its management was given to Shaikhul Islam. As the Delhi Sultanate and later Islamic regimes prospered in India, the count of Wakf properties kept on increasing in India.
There was a case made for the dissolution of Wakfs in India in the latter half of the 19th Century when a dispute over a Wakf property landed at the Privy Council of London during the reign of the British Raj in India. The four British judges preceding the case characterized the Wakf as “a perpetuity of the worst and the most destructive kind” and declared Wakf to be invalid.
However, the judgment by the four magistrates was not welcomed by the Indians and the Mussalman Wakf Validating Act of 1913 held the institution of Wakf in India. Since then, no attempt has been made to restrain Wakfs, moreover, after the Armed Forces and Indian Railways, the Wakf Board is now the 3rd largest land owner in India. Political vote banks have dictated that the organization of Wakf has only been stronger after independence.
The Wakf Act of 1954 enforced by the Nehru government gave a pathway toward the centralisation of Wakfs. Central Wakf Council of India, a regulatory body was established in 1964 by the Government of India under the Wakf Act of 1954. This prominent body controls the work under different state Wakf boards which were formed under provisions of Section 9(1) of the Wakf Act, 1954. The Wakf Act was made even more advantageous to Muslims in 1995 which as Advocate Dave highlighted, is an overriding law and there are no legislative powers over it.