How The Issue Of Paying Imam Salaries Has Kept Cropping Up Over The Years

Activist Subhash Agrawal has filed an RTI, asking for the file notes on the decision to pay salaries to Imams in Delhi mosques through his application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

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The Central Information Commission (CIC) has summoned officials of the offices of the lieutenant governor, chief minister, and chief secretary over the non-disclosure of information on salaries paid to Imams of mosques in Delhi under the RTI Act.

The background

The Supreme Court in 1993 ordered the Waqf Boards to pay adequate salaries to Imams working in mosques managed by the boards.
“We are, therefore, not willing to accept the submission the absence of any statutory provision in the Waqf Act the Imams who look after religious activities of mosques are not entitled to any remuneration, “the Bench of Justice R.M. Sahai had held on a petition by All India Imam Organisation which had approached the apex court for “enforcement of a fundamental right against their exploitation by Waqf Boards.” The organisation had approached the apex court seeking a direction to Central and State Waqf Boards to treat them as employees of the Board and to pay them basic wages to enable them to survive.

Instances Where Imams Received Support/Dues

On July 16, 2022, the Telangana government sanctioned Rs 17 crore for salaries of Imams and Muezzins that were due for the past three months. The state government had been paying them Rs 5,000 every month as an honorarium. “We will use this remaining amount for widow pensions,” Mohammed Massiullah Khan, Chairman Wakf Board, had said. Days before, the state BJP Minority Morcha had appealed to the government to release pending salaries of the last six months of Imams across 10,000 masjids, as Bakri Eid was around the corner.

On May 2020, a Hyderabad-based NGO called Helping Hand Foundation (HHF) paid Rs 3,000 each to 200 Imams and Muezzins from 100 mosques, mainly across low-income areas in the city. “Nearly 80 per cent of the Imams and Muezzins in city mosques have not been paid their salaries due to drying up of collections in mosque which are closed now. Due to this many are facing hardship for ration, essential items and are struggling to support their families,” said Mujtaba Askari of HHF had said.

On January 2019, Delhi CM and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo Arvind Kejriwal declared that the salaries of Imams and helpers in mosques in Delhi would be increased. The hiked salary will be paid by the Delhi Waqf Board. As per the announcement by the AAP chief, the salaries of imams will be increased from Rs 10,000 per month to Rs 18,000 per month. Whereas the salary of the helpers would be increased from Rs 9,000 per month to Rs 16,000 per month. The decision will be applicable to 185 mosques in the national capital that come under the Delhi Waqf Board.
Kejriwal also announced a salary hike for imams of mosques that are outside the domain of the Delhi Waqf Board. It is for the first time that the salary expense of such mosques would be covered by a government body. The imams of these mosques will be paid Rs 14,000 per month while the helpers will get Rs 12,000 per month.

The current case

Activist Subhash Agrawal has filed an RTI, asking for the file notes on the decision to pay salaries to Imams in Delhi mosques through his application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Agrawal sought to know the total number of mosques in the national capital that pay Imams a salary, the total amount incurred, annual expenditure, and details of the competent authority responsible for the payments.

He has asked if salaries of these amounts are being paid to priests of Hindu temples as well.

The reaction

The offices of the LG and the chief minister did not respond to the RTI application, but the office of the chief secretary transferred it to the Department of Revenue and Delhi Waqf Board. 

The Delhi Waqf Board, in its reply to Agrawal, said none of the queries are related to it.

The Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar has issued notices to the Public Information Officers of these two departments asking them to appear before it for a hearing on November 18.

The CIC has asked the officers to bring all the files related to the matter for a hearing.
Waqf Boards in several states, including Haryana, Karnataka, and Delhi, are following the practice of paying salaries to Imams.