HC sets aside order extending term of UP Sunni Waqf Board; wants new elected body to take charge

Allahabad: The Allahabad High Court on Monday set aside a state government order extending the tenure of the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board and directed that a new elected Board should take charge by February 28.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice SS Shamshery passed the order on petitions challenging the validity of orders dated July 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020, passed by Principal Secretary, Department of Minority Welfare and Waqf.

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the state government had extended the term of the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board after it expired on April 1, 2020, saying it wasn’t possible to conduct elections during the lockdown.

While quashing the order, the court appointed Principal Secretary, Department of Minority Welfare and Waqf as an administrator of the Board to manage the day to day affairs.

However, the administrator will not be eligible to take any policy decision relating to the Board and will ensure holding of the elections and to give charge to an elected Board on or before February 28, 2021, the court said.

The petitions were filed by Wasim Uddinand Allamah Zameer Naqvi and one other person.

The counsel for the petitioners argued that Waqf Act, 1995, does not empower the state government to extend the term of the elected board, and the court agreed that there is no dispute on this point.

“In absence of any such authority, the extension of the term of the Board vide office memorandum impugned is bad. It is asserted that the State extended the term of the Board beyond its authority for certain extraneous considerations,” the counsel submitted.

The court, after hearing the parties, observed that the elections were not possible till May end due to the strict lockdown but the State could have conducted the election in September.

“It is not in dispute that under the Act of 1995, no power is available to the state government to extend the term of an elected Waqf Board.

“The term of an elected Waqf Board is of five years and as per provisions of the Act of 1995 an election is required to be conducted before expiry of the term of five years enabling new Board to occupy the office.”

“No one can deny that up to 31st May 2020 entire nation was facing stringent checks pertaining to lockdown.

“In that period, no election could have taken place and even prior to 1st April 2020…. In such circumstances, the necessity demanded extension of the term of U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board,” observed the bench.

The court said the state government could have conducted the elections “in the months of August and September 2020”.

The court, however, made it clear that the administrative decisions taken by the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board during its extended term shall not be invalidated on the account of setting aside of the extension order.

The Board was appointed on April 1, 2015, for a period of five years.

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