The Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that imams, appointed in mosques to impart religious education, in Punjab cannot serve indefinitely and can be allowed to work till the age of retirement.
The high court held that regulations provided that the age for compulsory retirement of an employee of the Punjab Wakf Board would be 60, and might be retained in exceptional circumstances till 65 through repeated extensions.
But the extension could not be given beyond 65 in contravention of the Punjab Wakf Regulations1966, the HC said.
The high court decision came on a bunch of petitions filed by an imam of Masjid Tila Baba Zafar Shah, Ajit Gate, Patiala, and four others challenging retirement orders issued to them in 2012, stating that they could serve throughout their life.
They had contended that religious affairs committee had the jurisdiction to recommend candidates for appointment as imams, teachers, etc., to the Punjab Wakf Board, but neither the committee nor the board had the jurisdiction to fix the imams’ age of retirement, “which was conspicuously absent in the regulations itself”.
If the board wanted to fix an imam’s age of retirement, the regulations had to be amended that could only be done by the legislature because it dealt with the service conditions of the board’s employees and the retirement age was also a part of the service condition, they added.
The high court took note of the government’s argument that determination of the service conditions of its employees was the sole prerogative of its employer and the retirement age of imams serving the board being fixed at 65 was a policy decision taken by the competent authority in accordance with the law.
The high court bench dismissed all petitions while observing that regulations provided that all employees of the board had to retire at 60, but could serve till 65 by way of extension.