The Delhi High Court Thursday sought the Centre’s response on a petition challenging the validity of the Waqf Act on the ground that it gives priority to Muslim religious properties and makes “non-Muslim properties” subject to the Waqf Tribunal.
The division bench of acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla issued notice to the Central Waqf Council also on the petition filed by Devendra Nath Tripathi and listed the matter for hearing on July 28. The court on April 20 had issued notice to the Centre on a similar petition filed by BJP leader Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay.
Tripathi, a lawyer, in the petition argued that religious properties in India are a private affair and the State cannot be permitted to manage them using public money. “The Parliament cannot make law and give special status and discriminate against similarly situated citizens and other religious communities arbitrarily in violation of the scheme of the Constitution and the basic structure of the Constitution,” he contends in the plea.
Stating that since the Waqf Board consists only of Muslims, the petition alleges that there is “always an element of bias and prejudice” in the judgement and reasoning of the board which can affect the decision making in case of “Non-Muslim properties”.
While seeking a declaration that only a Uniform Civil Code can govern the properties of citizens under the Constitution, the petition argues, “the Muslim personal laws cannot override the constitutional values and basic structure and basic features of secularism, equality. It is only by use of UCC that we can achieve the values of fraternity”.
Similarly, Upadhyay in his petition, which also is listed for hearing on July 28, has argued that the provisions of the Act grant special status to Waqf properties and confer “unbridled powers” to the Waqf Board to register any property as Waqf Property.