Centre dumps report giving Delhi govt a say in wakf properties, to set up new panel
The NDA government will set up a new panel to decide on the ownership of 123 prime wakf properties in the national capital, rejecting a single-member panel’s recommendation that would have resulted in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government getting a say in the matter.
Additional solicitor general (ASG) Sanjay Jain has rejected “in toto” the report of a government-appointed panel that had recommended that the Delhi wakf commissioner, appointed by the Delhi government, should take the final call on the ownership rights of these properties.
The wakf properties were denotified by the UPA regime in March 2014 — two months before the end of its tenure — and ownership rights transferred to the Delhi Wakf Board from the Union government.
The one-member panel under retired judicial officer JR Aryan was appointed in May 2016 by the housing and urban affairs ministry to review the UPA government’s decision.
Government sources said the committee’s report had not gone down well with the BJP’s ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), as in many cases, even when there was ample evidence that the wakf property had ceased to exist, or was being used for commercial purpose, the committee failed to give a specific recommendation of handing it back to the government. “RSS functionaries have met ministry officials to convey their unhappiness over the report,” a source said.
The ASG has told the housing and urban affairs ministry, which had sought his opinion, to constitute a new committee to review the UPA government’s decision, a government source said.
Located in prime real estate such as Connaught Place, Janpath, Ashoka Road, Lodhi Road, Pandara Road, Jungpura, Karol Bagh and Daryaganj, the properties are estimated to be worth crores.
Before the then UPA government’s denotification, the ownership rights of 61 of the 123 properties vested with the Land and Development Office under the housing and urban affairs ministry, while those of 62 were with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
Revenue from waqf properties is used for carrying out welfare activity for the community, but government officials concede that many of these properties are being used for commercial purposes by individuals and organisations.
The ministry had sought the ASG’s opinion as it was not satisfied with the Aryan committee report. “Even in cases where it was clearly evident that the wakf property was not being used for religious purpose and there was no dargah, mosque, tomb or graveyard, the Aryan committee did not recommend restoration of the land to the government land owning agencies,” said a government official who did not want to be identified.
The Aryan panel’s suggestion is also a setback to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) that had challenged the UPA government’s decision in the Delhi high court, and written to the then Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu requesting a review after the NDA government came to power in May 2014.
In its petition, the VHP had accused the UPA government of showing “undue favour” towards the minority community, especially the “Muslim community for showing them that the government was gifting them away 123 prime properties in Delhi”.
In August 2014, the high court disposed of the petition with the following order, “….the writ petition is accordingly disposed of 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.”
The court ordered that status quo be maintained with regard to the possession of the land.