123 properties in prime locations in Delhi may go to Wakf Board

FrontThe Western Court mosque on Janpath is one of the properties. It is run by a committee of private individuals which ensures its upkeep with donated funds.

The urban development ministry has prepared a draft cabinet note to denotify 123 properties in prime locations in Delhi, and to transfer the ownership rights to the Delhi Wakf Board in a way annulling their acquisition by the British government between 1911 and 1915.

The government of the Raj had acquired a lot of land to build India's new capital in the years that followed the shift from Calcutta in 1911. Sixty-one of these 123 properties are now owned by the Land & Development Office (L&DO) under the urban development ministry; the rest are with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

Most properties are in and around Connaught Place, Mathura Road, Lodhi Road, Man Singh Road, Pandara Road, Ashoka Road, Janpath, Parliament House, Karol Bagh, Sadar Bazaar, Darya Ganj and Jangpura. Each property has a mosque on the premises; some have shops and residents as tenants.

The ministry's draft note will now go for comments to the home and minority affairs ministries and the Expenditure Finance Committee. After the receipt of all comments, it will be placed before the cabinet, sources said. The home ministry will also refer the matter to the Delhi government.

The Delhi High Court had, in 2011, asked the urban development ministry to look for a way to resolve the matter. In January 2013, Attorney General G E Vahanvati advised the government that the proposal was not feasible legally, after which the minority affairs ministry set up a committee of experts under the Central Wakf Council to evaluate the proposal. The expert committee backed the proposal, following which the AG concurred.

The proposal has, however, split the ministry; the urban development secretary is learnt to be against it. "There are conflicting views in the ministry on denotifying the 123 properties, which presently belong to the government. After the process is complete, they will become the property of the Wakf Board, which will be free to take any decision, including selling them. We are wary about this. Most of the properties are in high-end areas, and can be misused," a senior ministry official said.

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