SC upholds Telangana govt’s right over 1654 acre Hyderabad land claimed by Wakf Board
The decision came as a big relief for the Telangana government, as the state had subsequently leased out the land for setting up a university, township and other institutions of repute. The state government had appealed to the Supreme Court after losing out before the Andhra Pradesh high court in April 2012.
Land dedicated to religious and pious purpose is not immune from being vested in the state, ruled the Supreme Court on Monday while upholding the ownership of the Telangana government over a land extending over 1654 acres in Hyderabad that was claimed to be Wakf land by a dargah situated at Manikonda.
A bench of justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian said, “The land dedicated for pious and religious purpose is not immune from its vesting with the State… It was the Sovereign who had granted right to do service to Dargah. The Sovereign who had the right to give jagir village for service had a right to take away that right as well.” The Court was deciding appeals filed by the Andhra Pradesh government (now Telangana) against the Andhra Pradesh Wakf Board against an April 2012 ruling by the Andhra Pradesh High Court deciding in favour of the Wakf Board.
The decision came as a big relief for the Telangana government, as the state had subsequently leased out the land for setting up a university, township and other institutions of repute. The state government had appealed to the Supreme Court after losing out before the Andhra Pradesh high court in April 2012. The state had claimed before the high court that as a result of the HC ruling, it would be required to pay a huge sum running into thousands of crores of rupees as compensation to the Telangana Wakf Board.
The Court while dealing with the appeal had to consider whether the land was Wakf land as per a notification released by the Wakf Board on March 13, 2006. The land measured 1654 acres and 32 guntas. Setting aside the high court order, the bench in its 156-page ruling said, “The Errata notification dated March 13, 2006 is quashed. The land admeasuring 1654 acres and 32 guntas vest with the state and/or Corporation free from any encumbrance.”
The said land stood as jagir but post-independence the state had abolished jagirs and the land came to vest with the state. The bench noted, “Admittedly, the Government is reflected as the owner of the land in question since the year 1912-13. The Government has exercised its rights of ownership as a successor of the Sovereign. Consequent to Abolition Regulation and payment of commutation under the Commutation Regulation, the State Government had transferred land to the Corporation… Therefore, the abolition of jagir by the Abolition Regulation was absolute.”
However, in terms of the Commutation regulation, the Court directed the state to pay 90% of the gross basic sum referred under the Commutation Regulation to the dargah. These arrears have to be calculated and paid to the dargah within six months, the bench held.
The state had argued before the top court stating that the Wakf Board could not have issued the notification in question by relying on a 1923 ruling by a local court (Nazim Atiyat) and the second survey report. The bench, after examining Wakf Act of 1995 said that the Board had the power to declare a land as Wakf property but any such exercise required a thorough enquiry and hearing the other side. In the present case, no such enquiry was conducted as required under Section 40 of the Act and hence the notification was termed bad in law. Moreover, the bench ruled that the order of Nazim Atiyat could not override the Abolition Regulation and Commutation Regulation.
The Wakf Board’s notification was published in the official gazette of the state of Andhra Pradesh on April 6, 2006. At the time of filing of appeal, Andhra Pradesh was the litigating state but later it was taken over by the Telangana government along with Telangana Infrastructure Development Corporation which preferred a separate appeal. Independent appeals were also filed by parties to whom parcels of land were transferred by the state government from time to time. The dargah had originally challenged these land alienations made by the Corporation resulting in the present proceedings.