President gave his assent to the Waqf (Amendment) Bill, 2013, which aims at streamlining functioning of Waqf institutions and strengthen them.
What the term Waqf denotes?
The term Waqf denotes an endowment, which is to be used solely for purposes recognised under Islamic law as pious, religious or charitable. Such an endowment, which is usually property, is managed by an administrator (called a ‘mutawalli’).
What are the earlier acts related to it?
The Waqf Act, 1995 governs the non-religious aspects of waqfs. At the central level the Act establishes a waqf council which advises the government on policy relating to waqfs. The Act provides for the establishment of a Board in each state to supervise the functioning of waqfs. Such boards shall survey waqf properties in the state and ensure that the incomes from them are used for permitted purposes. Boards can appoint and remove mutawallis, take measures to remove encroachments on waqf properties, develop such properties, and oversee the budgets of waqfs. The Act also provides for tribunals to adjudicate disputes related to waqf.
What were the shortcomings in the present act?
The Sachar Committee had pointed to the low incomes actually earned from waqfs, compared with their high earning potential.
It pointed to a number of issues with waqf properties (a) non-availability of waqf records (b) poor maintenance of waqf properties (c) encroachments on waqf properties.
It called for (a) strengthening of waqf boards and waqf council to incorporate experts from various fields (b) proper maintenance of accounts (c) a dedicated cadre of officers to manage waqf affairs (d) legislative amendments to the Waqf Act, 1995.
What are the key features of the Waqf (Amendment) Bill, 2013?
The Bill makes the following changes:
a) The Act provides for a central waqf council, consisting of 21 members, and chaired by a Union minister. The Bill requires that atleast two women members be appointed. Under the Act, the council could only advise the central government on matters concerning waqf. The Bill gives the waqf council greater powers of supervision over state waqf boards. The council can issue directives to the waqf board if it is satisfied that there is evidence of financial irregularity, or if provisions of the Act have been violated. Disputes will be referred to a Board of Adjudication, to be constituted by the central government and headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.
b) The Bill provides for rigorous imprisonment for up to two years against those who take possession of waqf property without prior sanction of the board. The offence shall be cognisable and non-bailable.
c) All state governments will have to maintain a list of waqf properties. A survey of such properties in the state must be completed within a year. It shall be used by revenue authorities when updating land records. The costs of the survey shall be borne by the state government.
d) The bill provides a provision for the establishment of a State Waqf Board in each State. The Act provides for up to 13 members (not including a chairperson) to be appointed to the waqf board. Further the chairperson of a board can be removed through a vote of no-confidence. Boards can also frame schemes for the proper administration of a waqf, through a process to be prescribed.
e) Mutawallis who do not follow the provisions of the Act are liable for imprisonment of up to 6 months and a fine.