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Delhi: Centre To Take Over 123 Denotified Waqf Properties, Waqf Board Chairman Amanatullah Khan Rises In Protest

The Union government said the decision is based on the report of a Delhi High Court-constituted committee headed by a former High Court judge.

Waqf Board Property.(Representational image)
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After the Union government decided to take over 123 denotified Delhi Waqf Board (DWF) properties, DWB Chairman Amanatullah Khan said he would not allow it.

The latest confrontation between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-run Union government and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) —Khan is a AAP MLA— comes after the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs's (HUA) has decision to take over 123 properties of the Delhi Waqf Board, including mosques, dargahs, and graveyards.

The Union government said the decision is based on the report of a Delhi High Court-constituted committee headed by a former High Court judge.

Khan has said the action has caused "widespread anxiety, fear and resentment" among the Muslim community and he will allow the takeover. 

What has the Union government said?

The Housing and Urban Affairs (HUA) Ministry's Deputy Land and Development Officer (LDO) in a letter to the Delhi Waqf Board (DWB) on February 8 informed it of the decision to "absolve" it from all matters pertaining to the 123 DWB properties.

The HUA's LDO said the two-member committee headed by Justice (Retired) SP Garg on the issue of denotified Waqf properties in its report submitted that no representation or objection was received by it from the DWB. The letter said the committee was formed by the Government of India on the order of the Delhi High Court.

The LDO said the Delhi Waqf Board was the main stakeholder/affected party to whom the opportunity was given by the committee. However, it did not appear before the committee or filed any representation or objection regarding 123 properties.

"It is evident from the above facts that Delhi Waqf Board does not have any stake in the listed properties, neither have they shown any interest in the properties nor filed any objections or claims. It is, therefore, decided to absolve Delhi Waqf Board from all matters pertaining to '123 Waqf Properties'," said the L&DO letter.

Physical inspection of all the 123 properties will now be carried out by the L&DO.

How has Delhi Waqf Board reacted?

Delhi Waqf Board Chairperson Amanatullah Khan said the LDO has pasted notices at 123 properties which has caused "widespread anxiety, fear and resentment" among the Muslim community.

He tweeted in Hindi: "We have already raised our voice in the court on 123 Waqf properties, our Writ Petition No.1961/2022 is pending in the High Court. Some people are spreading lies about it, the proof of this is in front of all of you. We will not allow anyone to occupy the properties of the Waqf Board."

Khan in a reply to the Deputy Land and Development Officer of HUA Ministry on Friday said that the Delhi Waqf Board had already filed a petition in the High Court in January 2022 against the formation of a two-member committee on the basis of whose report the action has been initiated by the ministry.

Khan said that the committee was informed on April 12 last year about Waqf Board's petition in the high court, challenging its formation and asking it to defer its proceedings until a final order was passed by the court. The matter is pending in the high court.

Khan also said that before the two-member committee, a one-member panel was formed whose report was rejected without giving any reason. Also, the government of India had allotted one of the 123 properties to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) on permanent basis, after which the Waqf Board had approached the high court.

Khan said, "Two-member committee has already submitted its report. However, no such report is shared with the Delhi Waqf Board. Hence, you are requested to share a complete set of the report with the Delhi Waqf Board urgently."

Khan claimed that there was no direction to constitute a two-member committee by the high court in its order dated August 20, 2014.

Khan said these 123 properties are used by the Muslim community. The day-to-day management of these 123 properties was done by Mutawallis or the management committees appointed by the Delhi Waqf Board.

The Delhi Waqf Board has a statutory right under Section 32 of the Waqf Act, 1995, to exercise the powers of general supervision, administration and control over these properties.

According to the Waqf Act, all the Waqf properties vest in the concerned Waqf Board, which in the present case, is Delhi Waqf Board, Khan said.

The Waqf nature of the 123 properties was "innate" as all were religious structures like mosques, dargahs and graveyards. Some of them were given to the Delhi Waqf Board's predecessor - 'Sunni Majlis Auqaf - by the British ruler, he added.

Amanatullah Khan and Waqf Board case

Amanatullah Khan is an accused in a case concerning alleged irregularities in the Delhi Waqf Board. He is currently out on bail.

Though Khan was released on bail in September, the judge at the time noted that prima facie Khan had favoured his relatives and people of his constituency by recruiting them in the Delhi Waqf Board in his capacity as the chairman, but in violation of the instructions of the Delhi government, according to a report in Hindustan Times.

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Khan was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) —a unit under Lieutenant Governor of Delhi— on September 16, 2022, following raids at Khan's and his aides' properties. Cash and weapons were recovered during the raids, according ot ACB. He was released later that month on bail.

Khan recruited 32 people in violation of norms and government guidelines as the Delhi Waqf Board Chairman, according to the ACB's FIR, which also alleges that these recruitments were a result of corruption and favouritism.

The ACB said the then CEO of Delhi Waqf Board had clearly given statement and issued memorandum against such illegal recruitment.

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"Further, it was alleged that as chairman of Delhi Waqf Board, Khan has rented out a number of properties of the Waqf Board illegally with allegations of corruption and favouritism. Further, it has been alleged that he has misappropriated the funds of the Waqf Board comprising grants in aid from Delhi government," said Additional Commissioner of Police Madhur Verma, who heads the ACB.

The ACB also said it recovered two firearms and around Rs 24 lakhs in cash during the raids earlier this month.

"The officials recovered one beretta weapon and some cartridges along with Rs 12 lakh in cash during the raid [at a business partner of Khan]...The police also recovered Rs 12 lakh cash as well as a weapon and live cartridges from Kausar Imam Siddiqui, who is an AAP worker and a close associate of Amanatullah Khan," reported India Today. 

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AAP's run-ins with corruption

Amanatullah Khan is one of the senior leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) facing corruption charges, with others being Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain.

While the AAP maintains that its leaders are being unfairly targeted by federal agencies under BJP-run Union government's control, the BJP has used the investigations to raise corruption allegations against AAP. As AAP rose from anti-corruption movement early last decade, the BJP has sought to attack that image with cases like that of the Waqf Board, the alleged Delhi Excise Policy scam, and cases against Jain.

Outlook last year noted, "The allegations, though have no doubt affected the clean image of Arvind Kejriwal. Political observers note that, at the end of the day, people vote for better infrastructures. AAP’s recent Kuda Virodh Yatra significantly pointed out the hills of waste in the hearts of Delhi. While BJP uses its tactics of pushing Kejriwal through allegations of corruptions, for BJP the mole on the waste-hills would be its anti-incumbency and allegedly ineffective administration in the upcoming MCD polls."

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(With PTI inputs)

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