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Waqf Act - Dilapidated Structure Cannot Be Recognised As A Religious Place For Offering Namaaz Without Proof Of Dedication : Supreme Court

Sohini Chowdhury
30 April 2022 4:46 AM GMT
Waqf Act - Dilapidated Structure Cannot Be Recognised As A Religious Place For Offering Namaaz Without Proof Of Dedication : Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court, on Friday, held that in absence of proof of 'dedication' or 'user' or 'grant' , which would qualify a dilapidated wall or a platform as 'waqf' in terms of Section 3(r) of the Waqf Act, 1995, the said structure cannot be recognised as a religious place for offering Namaaz.A Bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian dismissed an appeal assailing the order...

The Supreme Court, on Friday, held that in absence of proof of 'dedication' or 'user' or 'grant' , which would qualify a dilapidated wall or a platform as 'waqf' in terms of Section 3(r) of the Waqf Act, 1995, the said structure cannot be recognised as a religious place for offering Namaaz.

A Bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian dismissed an appeal assailing the order of the Rajasthan High Court which allowed Jindal Saw Limited to remove a structure from the plot allotted to it for mining, which the Waqf Board, Rajasthan claimed was a religious place.

Factual Background

By a lease deed dated 08.12.2010, Jindal Saw Limited was granted lease near Dhedwas Village, Bhilwara, Rajasthan for mining.  

In 1963, the Survey Commissioner, Waqf of the State of Rajasthan had conducted a survey and notified a structure, 'Qalandari Masjid of Tiranga' ("Mosque") as waqf. As per entry in the waqf register the Mosque structure was measured to be 108 feet. Another survey was conducted in accordance with Waqf Act, 1995 and a report was submitted on 15.01.2002, where the Mosque structure, admeasuring 525 feet was found to exist in Survey Number 931.

On 17.04.2012, the Anjuman Committee wrote to the Waqf Board, Rajasthan ("Board") informing it that the wall and Chabutrah (platform) of the Mosque was situated in Tiranga Hill in Pur Village. It was also communicated that many moons ago labourers used to offer prayers there. However, as informed by the elderly member of the village, no one has been seen offering Namaaz in the Mosque which had become inaccessible. It also mentioned in the letter that the miners had agreed to settle the issue. On 18.04.2012, the Waqf Board responded stating that the remains of the Masjid should be saved from mining. Suspecting that the Ajuman Committee was acting in its own interest rather than that of the waqf, the Board informed the Collector and the Superintendent of Police. An FIR was registered and money was recovered from the Committee. Thereafter, Jindal Saw Limited approached the High Court, which constituted an Expert Committee to, inter alia, determine whether the structure located in the plot allotted for mining was a mosque or not.

The Committee submitted its report on 10.01.2021. The majority opinion reflected that the structure was neither mosque nor had any archaeological or historical relevance.

Contentions raised by the appellant

The Counsel for the Waqf Board averred that the Expert Committee had no representative of the Board. As the determination had to be made by the Waqf Tribunal in terms of Section 83 of the Waqf Act, 1995 it could not have been decided under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

Senior Advocate, Dr. Manish Singhvi, appearing on behalf of the State of Rajasthan submitted that whether the plot allotted for mining was a public ground over which mining could be carried out had to be decided by the State Government. He argued that the concerned plot i.e. Survey No 6731 was identified as a public ground by the Government and mining therein was impermissible.

Contentions raised by the respondents

Senior Advocates, Mr. Ranjit Kumar and Mr. C.S. Vaidyanathan appearing on behalf of Jindal Saw Limited contended that the plot allotted for mining was Survey No. 6731 and not Survey No. 931 on which the Masjid was situated. It was asserted that there was no document on record to indicate that there existed a religious structure in Survey No. 6731. With respect to the area of the structure the Counsels highlighted a discrepancy. In one Survey it is 108 feet and in another 525 feet. From photographs it was shown that the structure was dilapidated and the area was inaccessible. The Counsels submitted there there is nothing to suggest that Namaaz was offered and there was no facility of Wazoo (the practice of ritual purification).

Analysis of the Supreme Court

The Court noted that there was no document to suggest that Survey No. 931, on which the Masjid was situated was the same as Survey No. 6731, the land allotted for mining. Therefore, it was of the opinion that the land on which the Board claimed the Masjid was situated was not the one allotted to Jindal Saw Limited. Moreover, it noticed the discrepancy in the area of the structure. The Court observed that the letter of the Anjuman Committee based on hearsay had no binding value. Stating that there was no evidence that the structure was used as a mosque and no proof of dedication or user or grant which would qualify it as a 'waqf' under Section 3(r) of the Waqf Act. It noted -

"In the absence of any proof of dedication or user, a dilapidated wall or a platform cannot be conferred a status of a religious place for the purpose of offering prayers/Namaaz."

The Court also observed that the State Government's claim that the Survey No. 6731 was public ground was unsubstantiated.

Case Name: Waqf Board. Rajasthan v. Jindal Saw Limited And Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 425

Case No. and Date: Civil Appeal No. 2788 of 2022 | 29 April 2022

Corum: Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian

Headnotes

Waqf Act, 1995 ; Section 3(r), - definition of waqf - there ought to be proof of dedication or user or grant to qualify as waqf - in the absence of any proof of dedication or user, a dilapidated wall or a platform cannot be conferred a status of a religious place for the purpose of offering prayers/Namaaz. [Paragraph 17 and 18]

Click here to read/download the judgment




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