Highlights of the Bill
- The Bill amends the Wakf Act, 1995. It gives the Waqf Council, currently an advisory body at the central level, powers to issue directions to waqf boards, who administer waqfs in each state.
- The Bill makes changes to the composition of waqf boards. It also establishes a procedure for removal of a chairperson of a waqf board.
- Those states which have not yet established a waqf board must do so within one year. Further, state-funded surveys of waqf properties must be carried out.
- The Bill restricts the kinds of powers that can be delegated by a waqf board to the chairperson or any other individual, including the Chief Executive Officer of the Board.
- Under the Bill, the sale, gift, or total transfer of a waqf property will be treated as invalid. The Bill extends the maximum period of lease or mortgage of such properties, while establishing a more restrictive procedure by which leases or mortgages are approved by waqf boards.
- The Bill provides for imprisonment for those who occupy waqf property without authorisation.
- The Bill restricts the circumstances under which state governments can issue directions to waqf boards. Boards cannot be superseded unless there is prima facie evidence of financial irregularity.
Key Issues and Analysis
- The Sachar Committee and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Waqf had recommended that greater powers be given to waqf boards to evict encroachers. The Bill does not incorporate these recommendations.
- In order to evict encroachers, the waqf board is required to approach a local magistrate. In certain states, other authorities who administer hindu religious endowments are given summary powers to evict encroachers themselves.
- The Bill requires states to conduct a survey of waqf properties, at a cost to be borne by them. It is unclear how such a mandatory provision, in a central act, can be made operational, since such expenditures must be approved by the respective state assembly.