Taking up a petition challenging the provisions of the Waqf Act 1995, the Delhi High Court, on Wednesday (April 20), issued notices to the Union government.
The notices were issued to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Law & Justice, the Ministry of Minority Affairs, the Law Commission of India and the Central Waqf Board.
A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla noted that the petitioner has not impleaded the Central Waqf Board even though he had challenged the Waqf Act. The bench directed the petitioner to implead the Central Waqf Board and asked Advocate Upadhyay to make them a party to the case. Upadhyay responded, saying he would submit a revised party list in a week. The next hearing of the case is on July 28.
Earlier, Upadhyay had approached the Supreme Court with a plea seeking directions to the Union government or the Law Commission of India to draft a ‘Uniform Code for Trust-Trustees and Charities-Charitable Institutions’ in the spirit of Articles 14 &15 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court refused to entertain the petition. Upadhyay withdrew the petition with the liberty to move to the High Court.
In his petition, Upadhyay had submitted, “If the impugned Act has been made to protect the rights guaranteed under Articles 29-30, then it has to cover all the minorities i.e., followers of Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Bahaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and not only Islam.” He further argued that similar safeguards are not available for Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs and other communities to save their properties from inclusion in the list of Waqf issued by Waqf Boards. This constitutes discrimination against Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahais, Christians and Zoroastrians.
Accepting the notice on behalf of the Union government, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma told the Delhi High Court that the petition raises substantial questions about the Waqf Act, even though one of the aspects of the plea is that the act doesn’t mention a statement of the object(s) and reason(s), is incorrect.
Explaining how the provisions and practices of the Waqf are antithetical to the concept of Secularism, Upadhyay noted that the Waqf Board has Muslim MLAs, MPs, IAS Officers, town planners, advocates and scholars as its members who are paid from the public exchequer despite the fact the Union government doesn’t collect any money from mosques or dargahs.
“On the other hand, States collect around one lakh crores from four lakh temples but there are no similar provisions for Hindus. Thus, the Act offends Article 27 of the Constitution,” Upadhyay said.