On November 25, Uday Mahurkar, Central Information Commissioner (CIC), said that the 1993 Supreme Court order allowing remuneration to imams and Muslim clerics in the mosques in Delhi was in violation of the Constitutional provisions that state that taxpayers’ money will not be used to favour any particular religion.
Based on a petition from the All India Imam Organisation, the Supreme Court, in 1993, had directed the Waqf board to give remuneration to imams in mosques managed by it. Recently, the Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal announced a salary hike for Imams of Delhi mosques, from Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000.
While hearing an RTI application filed by an activist Subhash Agarwal seeking details of salaries to imams by the Delhi government and the Delhi Waqf Board, Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar said that besides setting a “wrong precedent”, the SC’s decision has become a source of unnecessary political skirmishes and social discord.
Further, Shri Uday Mahurkar directed that a copy of his order be forwarded to the Union law minister with appropriate action in order to maintain equality among all religions in terms of monthly remuneration to priests of all religions at the expense of the public exchequer.
The Information Commissioner added that it should be ensured that the provisions of Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution are enforced in the letter. BJP leader Amit Malviya on November 26 shared on twitter a copy of the order passed by the Central Information Commission.
“Further with regard to the judgment by the Supreme Court in the case between the ‘All India Imam Organisation vs Union Of India And Ors’ on 13 May 1993, that opened the doors to special financial benefits from the public treasury to only imams and muezzins in mosques, the commission observes that the highest court of the country in passing this order acted in violation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 27, which says taxpayers money will not be used to favour any particular religion,” Mahurkar said.
“The commission notes that the said judgment sets a wrong precedent in the country and has become a point of unnecessary political slugfest and also social disharmony in the society,” the information commissioner added.
He also ordered the Delhi Waqf Board to compensate RTI activist Subhash Agrawal for the time and resources he spent pursuing the response to his plea. The activist had received no appropriate response to his application, asserted Mahurkar.
“It is necessary to note here that it was the policy of giving special benefits to the Muslim community before 1947 that played a key role in encouraging pan-Islamic and fissiparous tendencies in a section of Muslims, ultimately leading to the nation’s partition,” the information commissioner said.
Giving remuneration to imams and others only in mosques, amounts to not just betraying the Hindu community and members of other non-Muslim minority religions, but also encouraging pan-Islamist tendencies amongst a section of Indian Muslims which are already visible, the information commissioner said.
Commissioner Mahurkar also noted that the Delhi Waqf Board (DWB) receives an annual grant of approximately Rs 62 crore from the Delhi government, while its own monthly income from independent sources is just approximately Rs 30 lakh.
“So the monthly honorarium of ₹18,000 and ₹16,000 being given to the imams and muezzins of DWB mosques in Delhi is being paid by the Delhi government virtually from the taxpayers’ money which in turn is in sharp contrast with the example quoted by the appellant in which the priest of a Hindu temple is getting a paltry amount”, he added.
“The commission observes that there was a clear attempt to hide the information in the initial period by a play of words which showed complete lack of transparency on the part of the respondent authorities in a case which in turn affects the provisions of the Constitution, and also social harmony and uniform applicability of laws for all religions in keeping with the constitutional direction that citizens of all religions be treated equally,” he said.
Mahurkar directed the Delhi Waqf Board and the office of the Delhi Chief Minister to provide responses to the RTI application of Agrawal.