Meeting a long-standing demand of the muslim community, the Union Cabinet on Thursday gave its approval to a bill that seeks to give wakf properties the status of public premises and make unauthorised occupation of waqf land a criminal offence.
The Waqf Properties (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Bill is expected to be tabled in the resumed winter session of Parliament beginning on February 5.
Tough there is no exact estimate of the extent of unauthorised occupation of wakf properties, community leaders say it could be well over 50%.
Sources said the proposed law will empower estate officers employed with waqfs to remove encroachment on their properties and prosecute the offenders.
The proposed legislation will be highly beneficial for the entire Muslim community as it will provide a perfect mechanism for protection of the waqf properties from encroachment, an official statement said.
"It has been a long-standing demand of the Muslim community as illegal occupation of the waqf land is the biggest roadblock in their development for the welfare of the community," sources said.
The Sachar Committee had recommended that waqf properties be treated as public premises as these properties are for the benefit of public and not for individual and encroachment on these properties to be treated as encroachment on government land, the official statement said.
Minority affairs minister K Rahman Khan has been a strong votary of the Bill, insisting that development of waqf properties is not feasible if the widespread encroachment on them is not dealt with strongly.
He had pitched for the legislation yesterday while addressing a meet on National Waqf Development Corporation which was attended by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.