In a move that is likely to escalate the stand-off between the AAP government and Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, the latter Friday declared the reconstitution of the Delhi Waqf Board and the appointment of its chairman, and its CEO, ‘illegal and void ab initio’. While AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan had been appointed chairman of the Board, retired IPS officer Mehboob Alam had been appointed its CEO.
Both appointments were struck down by the LG “for not having obtained the approval of the competent authority”.
Hitting back at the LG’s order, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed that “obstacles” were being created to hamper the “good work” being done by the AAP government.
“Ag land Circle rates declared void, manish summoned by ACB, waqf board disbanded – several obstacles being created only bcoz v doing gud work,” tweeted Kejriwal.
The LG’s office also referred the matter pertaining to the appointments and allegations of irregularities in the Board to the CBI. “In view of the deliberate and persistent acts of illegality, violation of rules, allegations of corruption, possibility of malafide etc, the whole matter related to Delhi Waqf Board is referred to the CBI for investigation,” the LG’s office said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Amanatullah Khan said the Board had been “shut down” without any notice and they were likely to seek legal recourse. “We will move court against this order if need be. We were shut down without any notice or warning. Do the approvals of the government mean nothing,” he told The Indian Express.
The AAP MLA alleged, “I have been taking on the DDA since they have usurped a lot of Waqf property, that is where the decision to disband the Board has stemmed from.”
“The LG is working like the state is under President’s rule. We have the approval of the government and the revenue department,” he said.
Khan said he was at the Waqf office Friday evening when the sub-divisional magistrate, along with newly-appointed CEO S M Ali and some police personnel, walked into the office and said it had to be sealed.
In his order, Jung further observed, “Since the term of the Delhi Waqf Board constituted in 2011 was to expire in December 2016 and five out of seven members have already resigned, no purpose is served in reviving the Board and therefore the Delhi Waqf Board is superseded under Section 99 of the Act, till the expiry of its term”.
Sources told The Indian Express that the matter referred to the CBI for probe also includes allegations of irregularities in the management of the Board’s funds and procedures adopted for making certain appointments, which were made by two former members. The investigation agency will also be asked to look into several appointments that were made without the approval of the LG, said sources.
For the time being, the LG’s office has handed over the affairs of the Waqf Board to the secretary (revenue) and the divisional commissioner.
“Secretary (Revenue) as per Section 99(2) of the Waqf Act will exercise all powers and duties of the Delhi Waqf Board, under the provisions of Section 99 of the Delhi Waqf Act,1995, by or on behalf of the Board, till such time a new Board is constituted,” stated the LG’s office.
The revenue secretary has been asked to initiate steps, as per extant Acts and Rules, for reconstitution of the Delhi Waqf Board, said the LG’s office. He has been asked to constitute a committee “to review the legality and propriety of all decisions/actions taken by the Delhi Waqf Board after its constitution in March 2016” and present a report before the LG within a month.
The Lt Governor also handed the additional charge of Delhi Waqf Board CEO to S M Ali, special secretary (Environment & Forests), till further orders.
Responding to the development, former Waqf Board chairman Chaudhary Mateen Ahmed said the decision was not surprising, since the required approvals for the appointments had not been sought from the LG. “They have not understood that all administrative appointments in the state need to be approved by the LG,” said Ahmed.
Referring to the appointment of Mahboob Alam, who is a retired IPS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre, he said this was the first time a retired official had been appointed CEO of the Board. Ahmed also alleged that the Waqf Board had incurred undue expenditure.