A bill aimed at checking rampant encroachment of Wakf properties and to make them commercially viable by extending their lease period from merely three years to thirty years was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Thursday.
The proposed amendments also make encroachment of wakf properties a cognisable and non-bailable offence and provides for a maximum punishment of two years rigorous imprisonment.
The Wakf amendment Bill, 2010 to bring changes in the Wakf Act, 1995, carries proposals to strengthen Wakf institutions and streamline their unctioning, as due to limitations of various clauses in earlier Act, proper protection of Wakf property was proving a difficult task.
The amended bill has a provision of extending the lease period of wakf property to 30 years from merely three years at present. It also recommends measures through which the wakf Boards exercise transparency in the whole process of leasing out its property.
The amendments seek to make Wakf Tribunals multi-member and give them additional powers of eviction and appeal. The issue of Wakf reforms has been a contentious issue ever since the government initiated steps for it.
Wakf Act was first enacted in 1954 and it was replaced by the Wakf Act of 1995. But the provisions incorporated in the 1995 Act were found inadequate to fulfill the task of protection and preservation of wakf properties for the good of the Muslim community.
The Wakf (Amendment) Bill 2010 was introduced in Lok Sabha on April 27, 2010 and passed on May 7, 2010. The Bill was, however, referred to a select committee when it came up in Rajya Sabha on August 27, 2010 amid vociferous objections to some of its provisions from some Muslim bodies including All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Earlier, a Joint Parliamentary Committee had made recommendations for computerisation of Wakf records, development of Wakf properties and proper administration.
The Sachar Committee also made recommendations for changes in the system of management of Wakf institutions across the country. This Committee had estimated that the wakf boards can generate up ot Rs. 12,000 crore annually by developing wakf properties in the country.