Law and minorities affairs minister Salman Khurshid has stepped in after the two ministries under his charge locked horns on whether a four decade-old law on eviction of illegal occupants from public premises can be extended to Waqf properties.
Khurshid intervened after the law ministry rejected a proposal from the minorities affairs department to allow the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 to be extended for summary eviction of illegal occupants from the properties owned by Waqf Boards across the country. Khurshid said the government is "now examining a proposal to amend the existing law on Waqf properties - titled Waqf (Amendment) Bill, 2010, to remove the confusion".
"The current definition of public premises is not applicable to Waqf properties, and therefore the law being mentioned in its present form cannot be used," said a law ministry official.
The minority affairs ministry had argued that it was for the state governments to change the definition of public premises in their respective laws by adding Waqf properties to it.
On its query on whether summary eviction of illegal occupants from Waqf properties was possible through the 1971 Act, the law ministry said:"The law is amply clear on the fact that the procedure for summary eviction through an Estate Officer is only applicable to government properties. We recommend addition of a specific chapter in the Waqf Act through an amendment.”
The select panel of Rajya Sabha that had examined the Waqf (Amendment) Bill, 2010, had also asked the minority affairs ministry to study whether the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act could be applied to Waqf properties.
With the resolution of the issue likely to take some more time, the alleged illegal occupants of Waqf properties appear to be sitting pretty for now.