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Last Updated: May 13, 2010
Text of Debate on Waqf (Amendment) Bill 2010 in Lok Sabha
By Andalib Akhter

During the passage of the Waqf (Amendment) Bill 2010, a very interesting and thought-provoking debate was held in the Lok Sabha on May 7, 2010. MPs from different parties, including BJP participated in the debate. I happened to be in the press gallery at that time. During the debate Syed Shahnawaz Hussain was looking more a Muslim than a leader of BJP. He said what generally a BJP leader did not dare to say. That too in the presence of L K Advani!

(Amendment) Bill, 2010

THE MINISTER OF STATE OF THE MINISTRY OF CORPORATE AFFAIRS AND MINISTER OF STATE OF THE MINISTRY OF MINORITY AFFAIRS (SHRI SALMAN KHURSHEED) moving the motion for consideration of the Bill, said: The inadequacies in the existing Wakf Act are being addressed. The Joint Parliamentary Committee has made several reports. On the basis of those reports, greater strength in the Central Wakf Council is being given.

SHRI SYED SHAHNAWAZ HUSSAIN (Who initiated the debate) said: Wakf is the property which is donated by the rich people for the welfare of the poor, orphans and the destitute of their community. Today, we have at about 5 lakh acres Wakf land in our country. But it saddens me to state that Wakf property has been plundered on a large scale in the post-independence era of our country. 50 per cent of this Wakf land is under the illegal occupation of the Government. Prime Minister, Shrimati Indira Gandhi had written a letter to the Chief Ministers of all the State on this subject, but, regrettably, no one took any action in pursuance of that letter. I would like to know from the hon. Minister the number of court cases which are being fought between the Wakf Board and the Government. The Wakf Board has not been equipped with any power by the Government. I seek assurance from the Government that it will vacate all the Wakf property under its occupation. Sometimes the Central Government acquire Wakf property in the national interest. However, as per the ruling of the Supreme Court, the Government cannot bring about any change in the use of Wakf. A number of Wakf properties have been encroached upon by common people. Sometimes, a mosque is used for residential and commercial purposes. Some mosques have been converted into guest houses and some into dustbins. I request the Government to incorporate a provision into this Bill which empowers the Wakf Board to get vacated its property occupied illegally by people.

Some States like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have given this power to their respective Wakf Boards. Even after 60 years of Independence, our community is backward and poor. We do not seek any special package for our community. We only seek assurance from the Government that it will help reverting back the Wakf property.

SHRI MOHAMAD ASRARUL HAQ: I support the amendments in this Bill. The Government has taken over certain departments of Asifia Nizam Hyderabad under the Darul Amal under the management of Hindi Muslim Auquaf and a department of Religious Affairs has been established. In this context, last efforts were made by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Wakf 1996-2006. This Committee was headed by respected K. Rehman. This was evolved to take care of property worth thousands of crores of rupees belonging to Wakf and active participation to give a practical shape to the idea was also manifest. This report is a mammoth document on the Indian Auqaf which can go a long way to get rid of educational, economic and social backwardness. It is evident that the funds do not meet the administrative expenses not even the salary of the staff is not managed from the funds. That is why the present Bill has gained importance and there is a need to bring these amendments. According to the recommendations of the committee, Indian Wakf Service may be introduced for the management of Boards and for which examinations should be conducted by the UPSC.

DR MONAZIR HASSAN: The Government took a fair and just decision on the issue of Census, for which I would like to thank the UPA Chairperson, Shrimati Sonia Gandhi and this Government. The Wakf Board issue has been a very important issue so far as the minorities particularly the Muslims are concerned. Today, a large chunk of land belonging to the Wakf Board is under the occupation of the Government departments like DDA, Railway or is under use for cemetery purposes. The people who run affairs of the Wakf Board have not done the justice to their community either. Hence, the Government has to take action to liberate the Wakf Board properties from the occupation of those who have illegally occupied it. Also, the Government has to constitute the Wakf Boards in the States which do not presently have such Boards.

SHRI SHAILENDRA KUMAR: Hon. Mulayam Singh ji, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh had taken an initiative to get the Wakf Board properties surveyed, measured and to construct the boundary walls thereon. Today, 70 to 80 per cent land of the Wakf Board is under the occupation of the influential people. The poor and the children of the minority Muslims would be benefited if you are able to liberate about five lakh acre illegally land of the Wakf Board. It has been mentioned in the amendment Bill that the Central Wakf Council and the management committee would be strengthened. This is a good step. This Board would have the women, the professionals and the experts as its member, which is also a welcome step. Then the measure to compile and computerize the land data is also a welcome step.

SK SAIDUL HAQUE: Sachar Committee has made recommendation for the proper development of the Wakf properties. I welcome some amendments which will bring new life to the Wakf estates. The survey, formation of State Wakfs and inclusion of women is a long pending demand. However, it would have been better if the States could have been consulted before giving it a final shape. I demand that the hon. Prime Minister should convene a meeting of all the Chief Ministers and State Ministers in charge of Wakf to discuss all the issues related to it. I also want that in clause 5 not only citizen of India, but also a permanent resident of India should be inserted. Survey of Wakf properties, registered or unregistered, should be done. In regard to the cost of survey there should be some financial support to the States by the Central Government. Under Clause 9, there should be a provision that a person should first approach the Tribunal before appealing before the High Court. Clause 11 seeks to hamper the State jurisdiction and federal structure of the country. What is the purpose of establishment of Central Wakf Council? It should only advise the Central Government, the State Governments and the State Wakf Board. But it cannot issue directions directly to State Boards without consultations with or intimation to the State Governments? So far as the removal of chairperson of State Board is concerned there should be a process of removal through secret ballot paper instead of raising hands to maintain secrecy of voting.

SHRI ARJUN CHARAN SETHI: Many hon. Members have raised the issue of encroachment of Wakf Board properties at different places. We find that Chairmen of Wakf Board in different places have, in their own capacities given sanction for the encroachment of Wakf properties to Big Business people. These are not permissible. I request the hon. Minister to please respond as to what course of action will be taken against these people. I also request him to take immediate action against such people.

SHRI LALU PRASAD: We support and welcome the initiative of this Government to bring about this amendment Bill, which is a good step. The Government should make stringent law in this regard since most of the Wakf Board land has been grabbed and illegally occupied. The people who manage the Wakf Board affairs have disposed of all the prime land. I want the Government to come out with a more stringent law, whereby this Board could be given a statutory status. The act of grabbing Wakf Board land should be made a cognizable offence where under the people indulging in selling or buying such land would be convicted. This law needs to be strictly implemented and the Boards should be constituted in the States which do not have such Boards at present.

SHRI S D SHARIQ: We support this Bill. It has been pointed out that even the Government departments have the Wakf Board land under their illegal occupation.Even poultry farms are being run by the Imams in the mosques. The Muslims themselves have not done any good to their own community. Hence, I would like a stringent law to be enacted in this regard. Such laws are required to be in place in order to deal with those who have illegally occupied such land or indulged in the sale and purchase of such land. I want that all the transactions in regard to the sale and purchase of such properties should be scrapped. The stringent laws alone could not serve the purpose, the effective implementation thereof would be desired.

SHRI BADRUDDIN AJMAL: This is a very sensitive issue. Hence, we should have got sufficient time to have a detailed discussion thereon. I would like to thank our hon. Prime Minister, Madam Sonia Gandhi and all other Ministers for taking initiatives in this regard. Earlier, the issue relating to OBC and Dalit communities was discussed. This Government took a landmark decision for which we want to congratulate this Government. I endorse the points made by Shahnawaz ji and I fully agree to his observations. The only thing that I want is that this law should be strictly implemented removing the encroachment by the Government departments. Then, I would like the Sachar Committee recommendations to be implemented which would go a long way to redress the grievances of the community.

SHRI HAMDULLAH SAYEED: In regard to the Wakf property which have been illegally occupied, we need stringent laws and their strict implementation. The Wakf properties are not being used for the purpose for which they are meant. So, by making stringent laws and by implementing these laws strictly, the Wakf properties can be used for the right purpose. Then, the income that is generated from Wakf properties should reach the intended beneficiaries. This amendment is a proof that the UPA Government is sensitive towards minorities. The UPA Government understands the problems of minorities, recognizes the problems of minorities and finds solutions for those problems.

SHRI VIJAY BAHADUR SINGH: Clause (4) of the Bill provides that the directive will be issued by the Council, suo moto, which I think is illegal. There should rather be provision that the directive will be issued by the Council after hearing the parties.

SHRI E T MOHAMMED BASHEER: This is a much-awaited legislation. In nutshell, this Bill serves the purposes of ensuring better administration of wakf properties, scientific and judicial composition of Central Wakf Council and State Wakf Board, formation of a National/State Wakf Development Corporation, effective utilization of wakf property, prevention of encroachment on wakf properties, empowerment of the Wakf Council and Board to get properties liberalised from encroachers, formation of a Wakf Tribunal with full-time Presiding Officer, time-bound survey of wakf properties, making Central Wakf Council and State Wakf Board more accountable and making the evacuation process of wakf properties from encroachers easier.

THE MINISTER OF STATE OF THE MINISTRY OF CORPORATE AFFAIRS AND MINISTER OF STATE OF THE MINISTRY OF MINORITY AFFAIRS (SHRI SALMAN KHURSHEED) replying, said: The Government will fulfill its responsibility but our community also have some responsibility. We have to get together for this. We have been able to reach up to this point after making efforts for the last ten years with your support. It has been our effort to move ahead on the issues pointed out by the Joint Parliamentary Committee. All State Governments had been consulted and the State Governments had given some very good suggestions.

The object of this Act is that we should provide women a chance to come into Boards and the Central Wakf Board for gender justice. We should extend help to the orphan children and women in distress. Now, Wakf will not be allowed to transfer the land. If any land is acquired in national interest, we have provided that it should get the market price and the money should immediately be deposited with some other Wakf.

There are cases going on at many places between the Government and the Wakf Boards. That is why we have provided for a three member Tribunal which will decide on such cases. If anybody has any complaint about the survey, he can go to the Tribunal. The High Court is also there after the decision of the Tribunal. This Act is only for the management and supervision of Wakf Boards. But the Minority Development Finance Corporation is there for speedy development of Wakf. All of us in the community have a duty to look into the cases of misuse of mosques.

There are many Wakfs which have their own income. But wherever it is not possible, they can get funds from the Maulana Azad Educational Foundation and the Wakf Council. The encroachers should be dealt with strictly. A special provision has been made for imprisonment of two years in such cases. The officers will have to pay a penalty of Rs. 15000 for their wrong-doings. There are many Wakfs which help even non-muslim people which is a good thing. We have not formed any cadre because we do not want to interfere in State’s affair. But, we have strengthened the Wakf Boards and the Wakf Council. A retired judge of the Supreme Court has been kept in the Tribunal. We have proposed to provide funds for the computerization of the Wakf Boards to strengthen them. So far as the question of 30 years’ lease is concerned, this has only been provided for setting up hospitals and schools. This Act will certainly work for the betterment of the administration of Wakf Boards and the Central Wakf Council.

The Bill was passed.

Andalib Akhter can be reached at andalib2001@yahoo.com

 


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