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Wrong Precedent, Says Central Info Commissioner on SC's 1993 Order Giving Financial Benefits to Imams

By: Salil Tiwari

Edited By: Apoorva Misra

LawBeat

Last Updated: November 30, 2022, 15:44 IST

New Delhi, India

As per the RTI application, after the announcement, total honorarium given to Imams and others in mosques under the control of DWB sharply increased from Rs 1.42 crore in FY 2017-18 to Rs 9.62 crore in FY 2020-21. (Shutterstock Image for Representation)

As per the RTI application, after the announcement, total honorarium given to Imams and others in mosques under the control of DWB sharply increased from Rs 1.42 crore in FY 2017-18 to Rs 9.62 crore in FY 2020-21. (Shutterstock Image for Representation)

Central Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar said it was the policy of giving special benefits to the Muslim community before 1947 that played a key role in encouraging pan-Islamic and fissiparous tendencies

Authoring an order in an appeal pertaining to an RTI application to the Delhi Waqf Board, Central Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar recently observed that the highest court of the country, in passing the judgment in ‘All India Imam Organisation And Ors vs Union Of India And Ors’ on May 13, 1993, acted in violation of the provisions of the Constitution.

Mahurkar stated that the judgment, which opened the doors to special financial benefits from the public treasury to only Imams and muezzins in the mosques, “set a wrong precedent in the country and has become a point of unnecessary political slugfest and also social disharmony in the society”.

The commissioner wrote that it was the policy of giving special benefits to the Muslim community before 1947 that played a key role in encouraging pan-Islamic and fissiparous tendencies in a section of Muslims, ultimately leading to the nation’s partition.

He stated that “giving salaries to Imams and others only in mosques amounts to not just betraying the Hindu community and members of other non-Muslim Minority religions but also encouraging pan-Islamist tendencies amongst a section of Indian Muslims which are already visible”.

Stressing the side effects of such actions, he wrote: “Steps like giving special religious benefits to Muslim community only like the one taken up in the present matter in fact severely affect inter-faith harmony as they invite contempt for Muslims as a whole from a section of ultra-nationalist population.”

The commissioner was dealing with the second appeal in connection with an RTI application filed by activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal seeking details pertaining to the salaries of Imams and helpers in mosques in Delhi that are paid by the Delhi Waqf Board (DWB).

The application had referred to a news report regarding the announcement made by the chief minister of Delhi in 2019 that salaries to Imams and helpers in mosques under Delhi Waqf Board will be increased by the board.

As per the RTI application, after this announcement, total honorarium given to Imams and others in mosques under the control of DWB sharply increased from Rs 1.42 crore in FY 2017-18 to Rs 9.62 crore in FY 2020-21.

However, the representative of the DWB submitted before the commission that the honorariums to the Imams and Muezzins in Delhi are given by DWB as per the 1993 order of the apex court and the DWB only pays honorarium and not salaries.

The Law Officer of DWB also apprised the commission that as per the 1993 order of the top court by Justice Sahai, it is the responsibility of the state and Delhi Waqf Board to maintain Imams and others.

The commission opined that the matter was significant as it affected the provisions of the Constitution of India, and also social harmony and uniform applicability of laws for all religions, as per the constitutional direction.

While directing the DWB and the CM’s office to furnish complete and detailed information as sought by the applicant, the commissioner held: “Those who justify such steps in the name of protection to religious minorities raise a question that if a particular religious minority has a right to protection, the majority community too has a right to protection in a multi-religious country where it is incumbent that the rights of the members of all religions are protected equally in the interest of inter-faith harmony and unity of the nation".

Therefore, the commissioner ordered its registry to forward a copy of the order to the Union Law Minister with the commission’s recommendation for suitable action to ensure the enforcement of provisions of Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution of India in letter and spirit. ​

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first published:November 30, 2022, 15:34 IST
last updated:November 30, 2022, 15:44 IST
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