'File status report on constitution/functioning of Waqf Tribunals across State': Supreme Court directs UP Govt.

  • Salil Tiwari
  • 11:38 AM, 06 Jan 2022

The Supreme Court has recenty sought status report about the constitution and functioning of Waqf Tribunals in Uttar Pradesh from the State Government.

The division bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and B.R.Gavai was hearing a Special Leave Petition filed against one judgment of Allahabad High Court whereby the high court had dismissed a writ petition that had challenged a notification issued by the UP Government directing constitution of only two Wakf Tribunals across the State. 

In pursuance of the 2013 Amendment to the Wakf Act, 1995 which had amended Section 83 (4) of the Wakf Act and by way of the powers under the amended section, the State Government had constituted Waqf Tribunals at only two places in the entire state- Lucknow, and Rampur whereas earlier the State had 70 operational tribunals. 

To be noted, before the said amendment, Section 83 (4) of the Wakf Act, 1995 had provided that in every district a Wakf Tribunal shall be constituted to deal with Waqf disputes matters.

The high court in its judgment had dismissed petitioner's challenge to State's action noting that none of the vested rights of the petitioner had been infringed by State's decision. The high court had also stated that the net effect of the Amendment is that single-member Waqf Tribunals would cease to exist and multi-member Waqf Tribunals at Lucknow and Rampur would deal with the subject matters.

Appealing against high court's dismissal, the petitioner had alleged before the Supreme Court, that despite Apex Court's ruling in Lal Shah Baba Dargah Trust vs Magnum Developers, the situation on the ground in UP is that the State has only two multi-member tribunals functioning.

In Lal Shah Baba Dargah Trust case, the Supreme Court had noted that it was erroneous to hold that after the Amendment Act, 2013 caming into force, the one-member Tribunals would cease to exist even though a fresh notification to constitute three-member Tribunals had not been notified.

The Apex Court had noted that "We should keep in mind that it is common practice that the old institution/member continues to exercise duty till the time any new institution/member takes charge of that duty. In the present case also, the one member tribunal will continue to exercise jurisdiction till the time the State constitutes three members tribunal by notification in the Official Gazette."

In the instant case, petitioner's counsel had contended before the Supreme Court that the constitution of multi-member Tribunals is nothing but an improvement in the constitution of the Tribunal and both earlier and the substituted sections of Waqf Act are not inconsistent with each other. He had also submitted that currently, only one Waqf Tribunal was functioning in the entire state of UP.

To this, the bench questioned the State of UP as to why only one Wakf Tribunal was functioning in the entire state. The Bench asked the state counsel why these Waqf tribunals have not been constituted despite the Apex Court's judgment in Lal Shah Dargah Trust case.

Noting that a detailed report on the status and functioning of tribunals in the state would be required before deciding on the matter, the bench directed that the matter be listed after three weeks. In the meanwhile, the State Government has been asked to file the said status report. 

Case Title: Shah Alam v Union of India & Others