Islamic-Law-Law-of-the-Muslim-World-eJournal.-June-14

This article is written by Rimsha Riyaz, a student of BA LLB (Hons.) at Jagran Lakecity University, School of Law, Bhopal. This article explains about features of the Central Waqf Council and its background and members.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Introduction 

A waqf is any dedication of property to God for religious or charitable purposes. Any waqf is a permanent dedication and can only be used for religious or charitable purposes. The waqf property can only be transferred by a deed and can be owned by any person, even a non-Muslim.  The waqf properties are governed by the state waqf boards created under the Waqf Amendment Act, 1995. The state waqf properties are managed according to the directions of and by the State Waqf Boards. However, there was no central authority for managing waqf properties throughout the country. Therefore, the Central Waqf Council was created as a statutory advisory body for advising the central government in matters concerning the management and administration of waqf properties all over India. The body was also created for regulating the working of the State Waqf Boards in the administration of waqfs. This article will cover most of the aspects of the Council. It shall, however, be limited to the Waqf Act and Rules made for the Council and the recent efforts to restructure the Council.

The Waqf Council

The Waqf Council is a central authority and a statutory body established under the Waqf Act, 1954, under Section 9 of the Act. The Council was established in the year 1964 by the Government of India. The Waqf Council is under the control of the government under the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The Council is an advisory body which is empowered to advise the central government on matters concerning the management and administration of the waqf properties across the country. The council is also supervisory as it supervises and regulates the working and administration of the state waqf boards and their functions. Each state has an individual waqf board whose members govern the affairs of the waqf properties in that particular state. 

Why was the council constituted? 

The growing number of awqaf( plural of waqf properties), or rise in the number of properties dedicated to the waqf, has led to an increasing number of property disputes relating to waqfs and issues of ownership. Therefore, a need was felt to manage such a large number. For this purpose, the Waqf Act was passed by Parliament in the year 1954. The Act applies to the whole of India except for Jammu and Kashmir; hence, it does not have a waqf board of its own. This Act governed the dedication of properties as waqfs and gave rules for regulating the same. The Waqf Act also provides for the creation of a separate waqf tribunal for the resolution of disputes related to waqf properties. 

The constitutional validity of the Act has been recently challenged on the ground of giving preferential treatment to one particular religion and unbridled powers to the waqf boards determine properties as waqfs, which is a threat to the properties owned by non-Muslims and discriminates against other religious institutions. The petition was refused by the Supreme Court; however, a notice on the same was issued by the Delhi High Court.

The Act empowers the central government to establish state waqf boards in every state and a Central Waqf council to advise the government in the administration of waqfs and the state waqf boards. The Act lays down the responsibilities, powers, and functions of the council. 

Functions of the Council

The Central Waqf Council performs the following functions: 

  • The Council has been authorised by the Waqf Act to issue directives to the State Waqf Boards in the matters relating to their performance in the financial aspects of waqf management which include maintenance of the properties, execution of the deeds, examination of the revenue records, surveys etc.
  • The Council, being an advisory body, provides legal advice to the central government and state waqf boards in matters about the protection and recovery of properties dedicated as waqfs.
  • The Council also must govern the Central Waqf fund and its maintenance is also done at its discretion. 
  • The Council is directed by the central government to keep and maintain all the books of accounts in the manner prescribed by the central government.

The Central Waqf Council was also created to overcome the challenges faced by the state waqf boards and establish a national authority over them. The state waqf boards are riddled with a lot of issues that vary from their constitutions to their functioning. The state governments have been empowered to create waqf boards in their particular states, yet many states have not been able to constitute them due to the political affiliation of the members who work for their interests and neglect their duties. The waqf has been created to survey the properties, but many state boards do not give importance to appointing survey commissioners for this purpose. 

There are also economic barriers to the efficient functioning of the state waqf boards. The income yielded by the waqf boards is mostly transferred to their members and mutawallies as salary, and thereby, the net income is very low. This has led to it being unable to afford sophisticated legal machinery and it lags behind inefficient dispute resolution and encroaches upon the ownership rights of waqfs.

All these problems faced by the state waqf boards are to be dealt with and tackled by the Central Waqf Council, hence making it a body of national significance.

State Waqf Boards

The state governments of each state are empowered by Section 13 of the Waqf Act to establish a waqf board. There are separate waqf boards for Sunnis and Shias. The state waqf boards are composed of the chairperson, members nominated by the state government, Muslim legislators and Muslim members of the legislative assemblies, Muslim members of the State Bar Council, recognised Islamic scholars and theologians, and Mutawallis who manage the waqf. The term of the members of the Waqf board as given under Section 15 of the Waqf Act is five years.

Section 32 of the Waqf Act details the functions and powers of the state waqf boards. Some of the most important functions of the waqf boards are maintenance, directions, administration of waqf properties,  appointment and removal of mutawallis, and scrutinizing and inspecting budgets and waqf accounts. It also institutes as well as defends suits with respect to the waqf property. 

Composition of the Waqf Council 

The Central Waqf Council is composed of various members from various backgrounds and expertise. Section 9 of the Waqf Act, 1954, establishes the council and also details its composition. The Council, being a central body, is headed by the Union Minister of the Waqf as its Chairperson, Ex- officio. The current Union Minister in charge of Waqfs and the chairperson of the council is Dr. Najma A. Heptulla. The Section empowers the central government to appoint members of the Council. Such members shall not exceed 20 in number. These members are to be appointed among the Muslims all over the country.

The members of the council, apart from the chairperson, include the following:

  1. Three persons, who represent Muslim organisations in the nation have an all-India character. 
  2. Four persons, who have national prominence in the fields of administration or management, financial management, engineering or architecture and medicine, one each from each field.
  3. Three members of Parliament in total. Two shall be from the Lok Sabha and one from the Rajya Sabha.
  4. Chairpersons from any three state waqf boards, but by rotation among states.
  5. Two persons, who have been judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court of a state.
  6. An advocate of nationwide eminence.
  7. One person, who is a representative of the mutawallis of the waqfs and has an annual income of more than or equal to five lakh rupees.
  8. Three persons, who are eminent scholars or theologians of Muslim law.

However, among all these Muslim members of the Central Waqf Council, at least two of them should be women.

A secretary is also appointed by the Council as its executive head, who performs the day-to-day functions of the Council and implements the provisions of the Waqf Act. The Secretary is appointed based on the reports submitted to the Union Minister of Minority Affairs, who is also the ex-official chairman of the council. The Secretary is also assisted by four members from the areas of development, administration, accounts and legal matters. 

The Central Waqf Council is also supported by four committees that together help in the implementation of its functions. The four committees meet from time to time to discharge their functions. The committees are as follows:

  1. Planning and Advisory Committee: This committee decides matters with respect to the administration and financial matters like the annual budget and the formulation of welfare programs.
  2. Waqf Development Committee: This committee looks after the schemes of the council for the development of waqf properties and better utilisation of the resources of the waqf boards. 
  3. Education and Women welfare Committee: This committee deals with the matters related to the educational schemes and loans for women’s welfare.
  4. Monitoring Committee: This committee monitors the functioning of various schemes and projects and looks after the overall work of the council. 

Central Waqf Council Rules

The working and functions of the Waqf Council are regulated and guided by the rules made by the central government, which it is empowered to make under Section 12 of the Waqf Act. These rules are known as the Central Waqf Council Rules, 1998. These rules govern the appointment, removal of members and secretaries, allowances and procedure of the meeting of the council. These rules cover the important aspects of the council, such as:

  • Tenure: The tenure of the members of the Waqf Council is for a term of three years. After their tenure has ended, the members of the council are eligible for reappointment. The members are free to resign at any time by providing notice in writing of the same to the central government.
  • Removal: The members of the Waqf Council can be removed on the basis of insolvency, disease or infirmity, conviction, absence from three consecutive meetings, and abuse of power and position. When any vacancy on account of the removal of a member occurs, the central government may appoint a new person as a member. 
  • Meeting: There shall be at least 4 meetings of the council per year and a maximum of 6 times. The date and venue are decided by the Chairperson, who prepares the agenda for the meeting. The quorum necessary for the meeting is at least one-third of the council members. 
  • Annual Statement of Accounts: The Council is also required to maintain records of accounts and the Waqf fund and discuss them each financial year.

Restructuring and reform

The NITI Aayog has submitted a report on the restructuring of the CWC for the restructuring and reform of the Council. Some of the recommendations made by the report are as follows:

  • Increased Manpower: The report recommended an increase in manpower even in the higher positions in the council. The report recommended a new position of a joint secretary along with the Secretary of the council who shall report and be accountable to the Secretary. 
  • New functional divisions: The report increased the number of divisions in the administration of the council and restructured it into five functional units. These new divisions are:
    • Land and Property Development Division (LPDD),
    • Legal Affairs Division (LAD),
    • Administration & Establishment Division (AED),
    • Planning, Finance and Audit Division (PFAD),
    • Information Technology Division (ITRD).

These divisions are each headed by a Senior Class I officer and shall also be headed by deputy secretary level officers.

  • Creation of Zonal Offices: The report recommended the establishment of four zonal offices in the country to facilitate the functioning of the Council and its meetings. These zonal offices are proposed to be at Lucknow (NZO), Bengaluru (SZO), Kolkata (EZO), and Pune (WZO). These offices shall each have 5 members and shall meet at least 4 times a year.
  • Meetings of the Council: The report also proposed to increase the frequency of the meetings of the council. It recommended at least six meetings a year for the efficient working of the council. The Secretary is also asked to call monthly meetings of the four committees and the five proposed divisions to check on their progress. 

All these recommendations have been made according to the needs and areas of improvement, and hence to make the functioning of the Council more efficient. However, these recommendations of 2017 have still not been implemented, but measures have been taken to implement the same in the best possible manner. 

There have also been efforts made by the Council itself to reform and improve its functioning for the better. One such measure that has been taken is the launching of the Shahari Waqf Sampatti Vikas Yojana. This scheme was passed by the Central Waqf Council to improve the financial position of the waqf boards and to provide grants in aid or interest-free loan assistance to waqf boards for proper maintenance of the waqf properties. 

Another such scheme was launched known as the Qaumi Waqf Board Taraqqiati Scheme (QWBTS) for the development of state waqf boards and was aimed at computerization and digitization of the records of waqf properties for easy access and prevention of fraud in the deeds of waqfs.

Conclusion 

The Central Waqf Council is, hence, an important body with national significance. The Council is a body for the regulation of waqf properties across the nation. The council performs various functions for governing the administration of the state waqf boards. There are a total of 32 waqf boards, including both the states and union territories, except for Goa, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Daman and Diu. The state waqf boards face a lot of challenges and disputes regarding the constitution of the boards, their finances, surveys, and maintenance. Tackling them is one of the primary functions of the council. The council has various members who are appointed by the central government and have various powers. The council performs the function of advising the central government and the state waqf boards. However, the waqf administration in India is in a disastrous state. The implementation of the Waqf Act has been ineffective and insufficient due to the negligence of its members and lack of financial strength.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Do the Union Territories also have their own waqf boards?

The Waqf boards are a creation of the state government and, hence, their constitution also depends on the states. The country currently has a total of 32 waqf boards, including both the states and union territories. However, not all states and union territories have waqf boards. The northeastern states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Goa. However, the union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli do not have waqf boards. 

Can a waqf property be leased?

A waqf property’s ownership is transferred to God and its usage is only for religious or charitable purposes. The Waqf Amendment Act, 2013 laid down that all waqf properties, on which lie a mosque, dargah, khanqah, or imambarah, cannot be leased for any other purposes. Only the waqf property of unused graveyard land can be leased out before 2013 only in the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh.

What are some of the challenges faced by the Central Waqf Council?

Some of the most prevalent issues with the Central Waqf Council are the corruption in the officers and members of the council, illegal occupancy of waqf properties, increase in encroachment of the waqf properties, growing litigation, and lack of record management, and absence of suo motu actions taken in cases of illegal occupancy of the waqf properties. These issues require the restructuring of the functioning of the council.

What are some of the developmental activities of the Central Waqf Council?

The Council issues loans to the Waqf boards across the country for the development of institutions such as commercial complexes, marriage halls, nursing homes etc. It also provides grants-in-aid to regions with Muslim populations for vocational and industrial training. It provides financial support for educational institutions for the welfare of the community.

References 

  1. Explained: What Is Waqf Act And Who Owns The Waqf Land In India 
  2. Understanding the essential provisions of the Waqf Act, 1995 – iPleaders 
  3. Central Waqf Council – JournalsOfIndia 
  4. About: Central Waqf Council 
  5. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Union_Minister_for_Minority_Affairs_%26_Chairperson,_Central_Waqf_Council

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