LUCKNOW: In a blow to the Adityanath government, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad
High Court on Friday quashed the order of removal of six members of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board. The court reinstated all the six members who were sacked by the UP government earlier in June on charges of corruption and irregularities in Waqf land and Waqf funds.
Allowing a writ petition moved by sacked member Aalima Zaidi and others, a Vacation Bench comprising justices Ranjan Roy and S N Agnihotri, however, granted liberty to the government to proceed afresh in the matter in accordance with law. The Bench quashed the government order on technical grounds. The State government had passed orders to dissolve the UP Shia and Sunni Waqf boards over alleged rampant corruption on June 16. It proceeded with its action and removed six of 10 members of the Shia Waqf Board on June 17 on charges of graft.
The members, who were sacked by the State government included former Rajya Sabha member Akhtar Hassan, Moradabad's Sayyed Wali Haider, Afsha Zaidi of Muzaffarnagar, Sayyed Azim Hussain, Nazmul Hassan Rizwi and Alima Zaidi of Bareilly. All the dismissed members were nominated to the board by the previous Samjawadi Party government.
Challenging the process of removal adopted by the UP government, petitioners’ advocate Gaurav Mehrotra had submitted in the court that the chairman and nominated members of the board could be removed only following provisions of Section 20 and 20 (A) of Waqf Act 1995 which provided for a chance to be given to members to present their side. The State government did not comply with the said sections of the Act, Mehrotra claimed. He also charged the State government with passing the removal order in a whimsical manner on the basis of an order issued by the chief secretary on March 20, 2017. It was also argued that the appointment of the nominated members was a term-bound provision and as such the members could not be removed before expiry of the term.
The UP government had decided to dissolve both the Shia and Sunni Waqf boards on the recommendations of the Central Waqf Council (CWC) which was assigned to probe the corruption charges and irregularities in the boards immediately after the BJP government assumed power in the State. After a probe, the CWC, in its report, substantiated the allegations of corruption in the bodies.
However, additional advocate general Ramesh Kumar Singh opposed the plea on behalf of the State government and admitted that the petitioners were not given an opportunity to present their side,
though he insisted that there were serious allegations and material on record against them and the State government should be given liberty to act afresh as per law.
“As the new government was formed, complaints regarding corruption, swindling of Waqf funds and irregularities in Waqf properties started pouring in. So a CWC probe was ordered,” said a senior official
of the Waqf department.
While hearing the petition of Zaidi and others, the High Court had on Thursday asked the State government to produce the original report on the basis of which the members were removed. While granting 24 hours time to Ramesh Kumar Singh to make the government's stand clear on the issue, the court had expressed concerns over the removal of nominated board members.
However, chairman of UP Shia Waqf Board Waseem Rizvi said justice was done and the victory has come on auspicious ‘Alvida’, the last Friday of Ramzan.