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CIC Calls for Action from Centre to Ensure Equal Pay for Priests of Different Religions

By: Salil Tiwari

Edited By: Shilpy Bisht

LawBeat

Last Updated: November 30, 2022, 14:37 IST

New Delhi, India

RTI activist Agrawal also sought from the CM Office information on queries related to similar salaries to be provided by the Delhi government to the priests of Hindu temples and other minority religions. (PTI File Photo)

RTI activist Agrawal also sought from the CM Office information on queries related to similar salaries to be provided by the Delhi government to the priests of Hindu temples and other minority religions. (PTI File Photo)

The CIC was dealing with the second appeal moved by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal who had alleged that incomplete information had been furnished to him by the Delhi Waqf Board about the details of the salaries of Imams and helpers in mosques in Delhi

The Central Information Commission (CIC) recently while passing an order pertaining to an RTI application to Delhi Waqf Board directed the order copy to be forwarded to the Union Law Minister for suitable action to ensure provisions of Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution are enforced in letter and spirit.

Central Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar called for action from the ministry to keep all religions of India at par in terms of payment of monthly remuneration of priests of different religions at the cost of the public exchequers (both central and state) and also other matters.

The CIC was dealing with a second appeal moved by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal who had alleged that incomplete information had been furnished to him by the Delhi Waqf Board about the details of the salaries of Imams and helpers in mosques in Delhi.

Agarwal had filed the RTI application seeking information in reference to a news report dated 23.01.2019 wherein it was stated that “Delhi Chief Minister declared that salaries to Imams and helpers in mosques under Delhi Waqf Board will be increased by Delhi Waqf Board from Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000 per month for Imams and from Rs 9,000 to Rs 16,000 for helpers.”

DWB initially allegedly denied that it was giving salaries to Imams or any other person, but later on, it clarified that it pays honorarium, and not the salaries, to the Imams and muezzins at mosques.

During the CIC hearing, the representative of DWB submitted before the Commission that a total government annual grant of about Rs 62 crore is given to them by the Delhi government, which is further divided into five heads namely salaries of Imams and others, widows’ pensions, establishment, Wakf development, staff salary. He further said the DWB receives Rs 30 lakh every month from the rented Wakf properties.

Agarwal then demanded that the CM Office in Delhi may be directed to provide complete information relating to implementation of statement made by him in meetings of Imams, according to the news report.

He also sought from the CM Office information on queries related to similar salaries to be provided by the Government of (NCT) Delhi to priests of temples of Hindus and other minority religions.

In his application, indicating discrimination against priests of temples of Hindus and other religions, Agarwal had mentioned the pitiable condition of an 80-year-old priest of the temple located in the street where he lives, who gets a monthly salary of just Rs 2,000 from the temple management.

Moreover, he had contended that the use of taxpayers’ money to promote or maintenance a particular religion is against the provisions of the Constitution.

Hearing the second appeal, the CIC observed that there was a clear attempt to hide the information in the initial period on the part of the respondent authorities.

Therefore, the Commission directed the CPIO (Delhi Wakf Board) to re-examine the matter and furnish correct, complete, and detailed information relating to the queries which would come under its purview and to transfer the RTI Application on remaining queries to the concerned departments.

The Commission also directed the CM Office to provide complete information with all related documents on honorariums being paid to Imams and others in mosques of Delhi which are not in the domain of Delhi Waqf Board.

Furthermore, CPIO, Delhi Wakf Board has also been directed to provide compensation of Rs 25,000 to Agarwal for the mental agony he faced and man hours and resources he lost.

Before parting with the matter, while stating that “giving special religious benefits to the Muslim community severely affects interfaith harmony as they invite contempt for the Muslims as a whole from a section of ultra-nationalist population", the CIC directed its registry to forward a copy of the order to the Law Minister to take appropriate action in this regard.

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first published:November 30, 2022, 14:34 IST
last updated:November 30, 2022, 14:37 IST
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