Updated: January 26, 2021 5:56:56 am
Setting aside the state government’s order extending the term of the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board despite failing to elect new members amid the Covid-19 lockdown, the Allahabad High Court on Monday appointed the Principal Secretary of Minority Welfare and Waqf the board’s administrator. The official was told to ensure that polls are held, and hand over charge to an elected board by February 28.
A bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery passed the directions after hearing a writ petition by petitioner Wasim Uddin and others, and a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea filed by a person identified as Allamah Zameer Naqvi and others.
The judges said the administrator would manage the Board’s daily affairs in this period and would not be eligible to take policy decisions.
“The petitions are disposed of by setting aside the order by Additional Principal Secretary (Minority Welfare and Waqf) and it has been added that the Principal Secretary (Minority Welfare and Waqf) will now be an administrator of the Sunni Central Waqf Board to manage day-to-day affairs of the Board. However, he will not be eligible to take any policy decision relating to the Board. The administrator is also to ensure holding elections and to give charge to an elected Board on or before February 28…It is made clear that the administrative decisions taken by Board during its extended term shall not be invalidated on the count of setting aside of the order by the Principal Secretary,” the court said.
The last Board was appointed as per the Waqf Act of 1995 on April 1, 2015, for a five-year term. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the state government extended its term by six months, and on September 30 extended it by six more months. In the office memorandum of September 30, the state administration also announced its decision to hold elections to the Board expeditiously according to the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board Conduct of Election Rules, 1997.
The petitioners, however, argued that the Waqf Act of 1995 does not empower the state to extend the term of an elected Board.
Senior advocate SFA Naqvi, who was the counsel for the PIL petitioner, told The Indian Express that both the writ petition and the PIL were filed last year before the Board formed the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation Trust. The Trust, which was set up last July, is in charge of building a mosque in Ayodhya district’s Dhannipur village. The five-acre plot was provided to the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board following the Supreme Court’s direction in the Ram Janmabhoomi case verdict of 2019.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines