Other States

Hold elections to Sunni Central Waqf Board, Allahabad HC tells U.P.

File photo of Allahabad High Court.  

The Allahabad High Court on Monday set aside an order of the Uttar Pradesh government extending the term of the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board for the second time and ordered it to conduct elections and form the new board by February 28.

Election of such bodies could be deferred “only in most emergent and extraordinary circumstances,” the HC noted.

The administrative decisions taken by the board during its extended term would be invalidated after the court set aside the government order of September 30, saying the government acted beyond authority.

The HC appointed Principal Secretary of the Department of Minority Welfare and Waqf as an administrator of the board to manage its daily affairs but the official would not be eligible to take any policy decisions.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery directed the Principal Secretary to ensure elections are held and give charge to the new board by February 28.

The court was hearing two petitions filed to examine the validity of the orders, July 1 and September 30, 2020, by the State government extending the term of the Board.

The State government had in July extended the term of the board for six months with effect from April 1 after failing to elect the members on grounds of the lockdown to combat COVID-19. The board was appointed for five years on April 1, 2015.

The government extended the term for further six months on September 30.

The petitioners argued that the Waqf Act, 1995 does not empower the State to extend the term of an elected board and asserted that it acted beyond its authority and for certain extraneous considerations.

According to petitioners’ counsels led by senior advocate S. Farman Ahmad Naqvi, the board has less than 600 voters and they could have participated in elections adhering to the COVID-19 protocols. They also argued that the lockdown ended on May 31 and that there was no reason for further extension of the board.

Additional Advocate General Manish Goyal said the pandemic was at its peak in April 2020 hence it was not possible to hold elections. The pandemic was also in its full swing in September, he said, justifying the second extension.

The HC acknowledged that the first extension was necessary given the circumstances. It did not accept the reasoning for the second extension and said the elections could have been held in August or September.

“In September, elections of several other bodies including Assembly were notified in the country. We fail to understand why the respondents did not choose to hold timely elections,” the HC said.

“Elections for a democratically elected body are sine qua non for application of democratic values and working of the institution accordingly. Such functioning should have not been compromised at any cost,” the court said.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 5:42:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/hold-elections-to-sunni-central-waqf-board-allahabad-hc-tells-up/article33659000.ece

Next Story