Waqf property: Law to make occupation penal offence

The Minority Ministry has decided to bring a new standalone legislation declaring wakf properties as public premises in a significant attempt to remove encroachments on wakf land and prevent illegal occupation of such properties.

According to estimates, 70-80 per cent of wakf properties, worth thousands of crores, have been encroached upon or illegally occupied. Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan said the legislation would be on the lines of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.

Declaring wakf properties as public premises a long-standing demand of the Muslim community would make encroachment automatically illegal and a penal offence. Besides, it would provide for a speedy machinery for the eviction of unauthorised occupants as state wakf boards would be empowered with magisterial powers.

Khan said the provision for penalties in the legislation will be similar to that in the Public Premises Act.

The Public Premises Act, apart from giving powers to the government for eviction, provides for a maximum jail term of a year for re-occupation of public premises by the evicted person.

While The Wakf (Amendment) Bill, 2010 which is pending in Parliament makes encroachment of wakf properties a cognisable and non-bailable offence and provides for a maximum punishment of two years rigorous imprisonment, the ministry thought of bringing a separate legislation to prevent the practice of illegal occupants approaching the courts and eliminate additional legal procedure for eviction of persons who fail to comply with eviction direction.

"Once wakf property is declared as public premise, then there is no need to go to file a case and go to the court for eviction," Khan said.

He said he will try to introduce the Bill in the Budget session of Parliament.

Karnataka, Manipur and Rajasthan have brought all wakf properties under the ambit of the Public Premises Act.

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