Following a petition filed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in the Delhi High Court, the NDA government has started an inquiry into the transfer of 123 prime properties in the capital to the Delhi Wakf Board by the previous UPA government, reportedly for “political considerations”.
“I have received a representation against Salman Khurshid… On the eve of his demitting office last year, he was instrumental in the transfer of these properties, keeping vote bank politics in mind,” Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu told The Indian Express.
As reported by The Indian Express in January 2014, the urban development ministry under the then UPA government had prepared a draft cabinet note to denotify the 123 properties, and to transfer the ownership rights to the Delhi Wakf Board, “annulling” their acquisition by the British government in 1911-1915. The transfer was finally done in March 2014, a night before the model code of conduct came into effect before the general elections.
“The entire notification was done in haste. We have written to the law ministry and sought its opinion on the matter. A petition has been filed in the High Court, and we want to find out of if it was illegal to transfer the properties,” said a senior offiical of the urban development ministry.
In its petition filed in the Dehi High Court on May 22, the VHP said: “The properties which have been acquired and vested in the government after the possession of the same has been taken… it cannot be denotified/ released from acquisition in exercise of power under Section 48 of the Land Acquisition Act.”
Most of the properties are in and around Connaught Place, Mathura Road, Lodhi Road, Mansingh Road, Pandara Road, Ashoka Road, Janpath, Parliament House, Karol Bagh, Sadar Bazar, Daryaganj and Jangpura. While each property has a mosque, some have shops and residences.
Sixty-one of these properties are owned by the Land & Development Office, while the remaining are with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). Both these departments function under the urban development ministry.
While presiding over a meeting of the Central Wakf Council in September 2012, Khurshid, then the Minority Affairs Minister, had said the issue related to the properties would soon be resolved.
In 2011, the Delhi High Court had asked the ministry to resolve the matter. In January 2013, then Attorney General G E Vahanvati had advised the government that the proposal for transfer of the properties was not legally feasible, after which the minority affairs ministry set up a committee of experts under the Central Wakf Council. The expert committee backed the proposal, following which the AG concurred.