Is the Wakf board a Public Authority?
‘Wakf’ means the permanent dedication by a person professing Islam of any movable or immovable property, for any purpose recognised by the Muslim Law as auspicious, religious or charitable. The income of the Wakf property is utilized for charitable purposes like assistance to the poor and needy, maintenance of the Mosque, Graveyards, educational institution, hospitals etc. A ‘Wakf Board’ is a statuary body constituted under the Act to administer, control and manage the Wakf properties. The Wakf Board is constituted by the State Government for a period of 5 years. For the better administration of the Wakf Institutions the Government of India enacted Wakf Act, 1954 and directed/attached with certain properties such as land, buildings, shops open sites, etc.
RTI applications filed before the Haryana Wakf board seeking details about an alleged piece of land used as graveyard have been turned down claiming that it is not a public authority and is beyond the purview of the RTI Act. Advocate Mohammad Rafique Chauhan, President of the Haryana Muslim Khidmat Sabha has claimed that the graveyard of Chand Sarai bearing khasra number 4489 has been sold by the Wakf Board. He has argued that according to Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005 any department or institution constituted under constitutional provision, parliament or state assemblies or by government orders, is covered under the provisions of the RTI Act. His contention is that Haryana Wakf board was set up under the Wakf act, 1995, article 13 (1) by Haryana government in August 2003 and hence is answerable under the RTI Act.
The Wakf Boards have faced criticism for mismanagement of properties all over the country and bringing down the curtain of opacity would aid in better management of the assets.