Attorney General and Advocate General Receive Notice From Allahabad HC Regarding PIL Contesting Waqf Act: Allahabad High Court

In the case of Ashish Tewari and others v. Union of India and others [PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION (PIL) No.1922 of 2022], regarding a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition that was filed before it and questioned the validity of the Waqf Act, 1995, the Allahabad High Court has sent letters to the Attorney General of India and the Advocate General. On December 15, 2022, the case was marked as “new.” In essence, the Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice J. J. Munir panel is addressing a PII, or petition, filed by Ashish Tewari and others asking the court to rule that any notification, order, decision, or rule issued under the Waqf Act will not apply to properties owned by Hindus or people from non-Islamic communities.

Facts: In addition, the plea calls for the revocation of specific Waqf Act provisions that it claims violate Articles 14, 15, 25, 26, and 300-A of the Constitution. The argument in the petition is that certain provisions (which are being challenged) give Waqf properties a special status while denying Trusts, Mutts, Akharas, and Societies the same status. As a result, the petition claims, they give Waqf Boards unrestricted and unchecked authority to register any property as Waqf property. The argument makes the claim that other religious communities are being discriminated against and that the contested provisions violate Articles 14, 15, 25, 27, and 300 A of the Indian Constitution. “In the impugned Act, there is no safeguard for Hindus and non-Islamic communities to save their religious and private properties from being included in the list of Waqf issued by the Government or by the Wayf Boards and Hindu,” the plea reads.

Judgement: The argument made in the suit is that certain Waqf Act provisions (Sections 4, 5, 36, and 40) are in conflict with Article 14 of the Indian Constitution since no adequate protection has been created to prevent the inclusion of any property as waqf property. Furthermore, it has been argued that the 1955 Act does not adhere to the fundamentals of natural justice since it does not make adequate provisions for the affected parties who wish to contest the designation of the property as Waqt Property to have a chance to be heard. The plea also states that under Section 40, which gives the Waqf Boards the authority to investigate any land to determine whether it is Waqf property or not, the Waqf Board may request that any Trust or Society provide justification for why the property should not be registered as Waqf property if it has reason to believe that the property is a Waqf property. The Board’s judgement is final and is subject to any orders issued by the Tribunal. The plea continues, “Therefore, the fate of Trust or Societies’ properties are subject to the will of the Board and, in other words, they have been placed as Subordinates to Waqf Boards, which is absolutely in violation of the provisions contained in Articles 14-15, 26 and 300-A of the Constitution of India. Notably, the appeal asserts that in the previous ten years, Waqf Boards have swiftly taken control of other people’s holdings and designated those properties as Waqf property.

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