The Centre has set up a committee to review the previous UPA government’s decision at the fag end of its term to transfer 123 wakf or mortmain properties in the Capital to the Delhi Wakf Board.
The single-man committee of JR Aryan, a retired officer of Delhi Higher Judicial Service, will have to submit its report in six months.
The government had inherited these prime pieces of real estate after Independence and their status remained unchanged until the UPA administration denotified them on March 5, 2014, a month before the April-May general elections that the Congress-led coalition lost.
Records say 61 of these properties were with the land and development office under the Union urban development ministry and 62 with the Delhi Development Authority.
These are located in high-value areas such as Connaught Place, Janpath, Ashok Road, Babar Road, Lodhi Road, Mathura Road, Pandara Road, Jungpura, Karol Bagh, and Daryaganj.
The transfer of ownership rights allowed the Delhi Wakf Board to carry out construction and renovation work on these properties.
But the board’s nodal officer K Alam Farooqui said the majority of these are built-up properties such as dargah, masjid and graveyards.
“Only a handful is vacant land and most of these have been encroached upon. Ownership rights would have allowed us to remove the encroachments,” he said.
Immediately after the UPA cabinet ratified the proposal of the Kamal Nath-headed urban development ministry, the Indraprastha unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) challenged the decision in the Delhi high court.
The VHP accused the UPA government in its petition of showing “undue favour” towards the minority community.
Later, after the NDA came to power, the Hindu right-wing organisation wrote to urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu to review the UPA-era decision.
The ministry had sought legal opinion to verify if the rulebook was followed during the transfer of ownership.
In August 2014, the high court disposed of the VHP petition, “… leaving it open to the respondents No 1&2 (Union of India and L&DO) to take an appropriate decision after giving an opportunity of hearing to all the stakeholders, particularly Delhi Wakf Board”.
Till such time, the court ordered that status quo must be maintained, meaning the properties remained with the government.
The government’s review panel, set up on May 19, will now call all stakeholders or affected parties to record their statements and it has the power to demand relevant records and summon government officials.
“The committee will examine the statements and submit its report along with recommendations regarding the 123 denotified wakf properties to the urban development ministry,” a senior official said.
Wakf official Farooqui contended that a reversal of the UPA decision will stop the board from using these properties to earn revenue. He said: “Revenue from wakf properties is used for welfare of the community.”