The Maharashtra State Wakf Board faces imminent dissolution. The Bombay high court, on Tuesday, hinted at setting it aside because of alleged defects in its formation.
A division bench of justice DK Deshmukh and justice Anoop Mohta reserved orders on a bunch of petitions challenging various aspects of the Wakf Board formation, saying they were inclined to the direct dissolution of the board, which they found was constituted without taking into consideration relevant data.
The Wakf Act requires the state government to form separate boards for Shia and Sunni Wakfs (essentially Muslim charitable trusts), if the number or valuation of all Shia Wakf properties exceed 15% of total Wakfs in the state or valuation of their total properties.
For ascertaining this position, a survey has to be conducted by the charity commissioner before setting up the Wakf Board. The Maharashtra government, however, has formed the board before receiving report of a survey conducted by the charity commissioner.
While, the State Wakf Board was constituted on January 4, 2002, the survey report was submitted to the state government on January 31, the same year.
Senior advocate Yusuf Muchhala, representing one of the petitioners, argued that the state government had no information to decide whether to set up a composite board or two separate boards when the notification was issued.
Advocate general Ravi Kadam, on the other hand, maintained that the law gives the state government the discretion of either forming a composite board or two separate boards for Shia and Sunni Wakfs. “Accordingly, the state government had taken a policy decision to have a composite board,” Kadam submitted.
However, the judges disagreed with him. “The purpose of ordering the survey was to obtain information, so that an informed decision could be taken,” they said, adding, “The discretionary power was coupled with a duty (to form two boards, if the condition was fulfilled).”
On Tuesday, the judges also spoke about the interim arrangement – of possibly sending Wakfs back under the charity commissioner’s jurisdiction till a new Wakf Board or boards are set up.