‘Board Of Muslim Waqfs, Rajasthan vs Radha Krishna & Ors on 24 October, 1978’

‘Board Of Muslim Waqfs, Rajasthan vs Radha Krishna & Ors on 24 October, 1978’


The case of “Board Of Muslim Waqfs, Rajasthan vs Radha Krishna & Ors” (24 October 1978) is a pivotal legal dispute between the Board of Muslim Waqfs in Rajasthan and Radha Krishna and others. This case is of notable importance in the legal domain as it centers around the intricacies of Waqf properties and associated rights. Adjudicated on 24 October 1978, the judgment rendered in this case delves into the nuanced considerations concerning property rights, religious endowments, and the legal principles governing Waqf institutions.

The dispute unfolds against a backdrop of complex legal questions, exploring the delicate balance between the rights and interests involved. The court’s examination of the facts, arguments, and subsequent legal conclusions provides valuable insights into resolving conflicts related to Waqf properties. This landmark judgment significantly contributes to the evolving jurisprudence surrounding the regulation and protection of Waqf institutions, shaping the legal framework for future cases involving religious endowments and property disputes. The case stands as a testament to the courts’ role in addressing the intricate interplay of legal principles and rights in matters pertaining to Waqf properties.

  • The Legal Issue –

The Waqfs Act 1954 was enacted to ensure better administration and supervision of Waqfs, bringing their management under the state’s purview. The Act mandates the appointment of a Commissioner of Waqfs for surveying Waqf properties and submitting their report to the State Government, invests them with powers akin to a Civil Court, and grants the right to institute a suit to the Board of Muslim Waqfs, Mutawalli, or any interested party if a question regarding Waqf properties arises. 

In the present case, respondents 1 and 2 were mortgagee-purchasers of a property claimed to be Waqf property. Respondent 3 petitioned the Commissioner of Waqfs to declare the property Waqf and take it over from the mortgagee-purchasers. Respondents 1 and 2 disputed the jurisdiction of the Commissioner to adjudicate the property’s status and denied its Waqf status. On receiving the Commissioner’s report, the Board of Muslim Waqfs included the property in the list of Waqfs in the state. 

In a Writ Petition, the High Court declared that the Act did not invest the Commissioner or the Board of Waqfs with the power to decide the status of a property and that the failure to institute a suit within a year did not conclusively determine a property’s status. The appellants contended in their appeal that the words “for the purpose of making a survey” in the Act confer wide powers to investigate and adjudicate a property’s Waqf status, and the respondents’ failure to sue within a year made the inclusion in the list of Waqfs final and conclusive. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, clarifying that the High Court’s interpretation of the Act was appropriate and that the word “therein” in s. 6(1) qualifies “Waqf property” and not “person interested in the waqfs” wrongly assumed by the appellants.

The Supreme Court ruled in the present case that the High Court was wrong in restricting the Commissioner’s power and jurisdiction to make an inquiry under s. 4(3). The purpose of the survey by the Commissioner under s. 4(1) is to inform the Board of Waqfs of the existence of Waqfs in the state to bring them under the Board’s supervision and control. Thus, it is implicit that the Commissioner can inquire about properties’ Waqf status while conducting the survey, and their power is not purely administrative but quasi-judicial. The Commissioner has the power to survey Waqf properties and investigate matters listed in sub-section (3), which cannot be curtailed by s. 4(5). S. 6 and s. 6(1) envisage that the Commissioner’s inquiry does not confine to determining whether a particular Waqf is a Shia or Sunni Waqf but includes disputes about whether a Waqf existed. 

Regarding the limitation period, a non-Muslim stranger in possession of property cannot be affected merely because the property is listed as a Waqf, and the special rule of limitation under the proviso to s. 6(1) does not apply to them. The word “therein” in s. 6(1) refers to “any person interested in a Waqf” and not the Waqf property. Section 6(1) empowers only those interested in the Waqfs to institute suits, listing the Board, the Mutawalli of the Waqf, and “any person interested therein” as the persons who can file suits and also the matters for which suits can be brought.

The right of respondents 1 and 2 in the disputed property, if any, would remain unaffected by the inclusion of the property in the list of Waqfs. They may bring a suit in the future to establish their right and title.

  • What is Waqf Board –

The Central Waqf Council is a statutory body established by the Government of India in 1964 under the Waqf Act, 1954 (now a subsection of the Waqf Act, 1995). This council serves to advise the government on issues related to the proper administration of the Waqfs in the country, as well as the functioning of the State Waqf Boards. In Islamic law, waqf refers to a permanent dedication of movable or immovable property for religious, pious, or charitable purposes, granted by philanthropists and known as mushrut-ul-khidmat. Those who make such dedications are known as “Wakifs”.

A Waqf Board serves as an institution to manage and oversee the administration of properties referred to as Waqf. These are charitable endowments made by Muslims to support religious, educational, or other philanthropic purposes recognized by Islamic law. The main functions of a Waqf Board are administration and management of Waqf properties, protection of these properties to prevent unauthorized encroachments and transfers, lease and rental management, resolution of disputes, promotion of educational and charitable activities, financial management, and community outreach. The primary goal of Waqf Boards is to achieve effective management of these properties to fulfill the charitable and religious objectives set by them. The structure and functions of Waqf Boards vary according to local laws and regulations. This institutional framework serves as a protective mechanism in preserving the charitable and philanthropic purposes of Waqf properties, and also provides the legal framework for their efficient management to benefit the community as a whole.

Currently, there are Waqf Boards operating in twenty-eight states and union territories in India, for a total of thirty across the country. However, some states and territories, including Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and the Union Territory of Daman and Diu, do not have a Waqf Board at this time. Furthermore, the Waqf Act 1995 does not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. In recent years, there have been reports of corruption, land encroachment, and mismanagement of funds by both central and state Waqf Boards. The Karnataka Waqf Board Land Scandal is one such example of such cases. Despite these issues, some Waqf Boards have been successful in using their funds to support various educational and welfare activities, such as the Haryana Waqf Board which had a record income of Rs 17.03 crore in 2010-2011, and spent Rs. 3.32 crore on such initiatives during that year.

  • Understanding the Judgment –

In Civil Appeal No. 166 of 1969, the Supreme Court of India heard a case challenging the judgment of the Rajasthan High Court. The dispute concerned the inclusion of a property in the list of wakfs published by the Board of Muslim Wakfs, Rajasthan. The High Court held that the inclusion of the property was not binding on the respondents, who were mortgagee purchasers, and restrained the Board from taking action to evict them.

The property in question was a two-storeyed building known as Dharamshala or Musafirkhana, which was initially owned by Haji Mohammad Ali Khan and dedicated as a wakf for use as a Dharamshala. The property was later mortgaged and sold to the respondents. The key issue was whether the inclusion of the property in the list of wakfs published by the Board was binding on the respondents.

The Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s decision, ruling that the inclusion of the property in the list of wakfs was not binding on the respondents. The Court clarified that a suit could be filed by the Board, the mutawalli, or any person interested in the wakf to seek a decision on the disputed property. However, the Court emphasized that this provision applies only to parties interested in the wakf and does not extend to persons who are not Muslims. 

The Court concluded that the High Court was right in holding that the inclusion of the property in the list of wakfs was not binding on the respondents. The Court also clarified that the respondents, as non-Muslims, were not required to file a suit within a year of the publication of the list, and their rights in the property would remain unaffected. The Court allowed the parties to pursue their remedies according to law.

  • Conclusion –

The key legal issue was whether the inclusion of the property in the list of wakfs was binding on the respondents. The High Court held that it was not binding, and the Supreme Court upheld this decision. The Court emphasized that the Waqfs Act 1954 empowered the Board, the Mutawalli, or any person interested in the wakf to institute a suit to decide questions related to the property’s status. However, this provision was clarified to apply only to parties interested in the wakf, excluding non-Muslims.

The Supreme Court concurred with the High Court’s finding that the inclusion of the property in the list of wakfs was not conclusive for respondents 1 and 2. The Court highlighted that the respondents, being non-Muslims, were not obliged to file a suit within a year of the list’s publication, and their rights in the property remained unaffected.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s decision, emphasizing that the inclusion of the property in the list of wakfs did not bind the respondents. The Court acknowledged the distinction between parties interested in the wakf, who could institute a suit, and non-Muslims, who were not subject to the special rule of limitation. This allowed the respondents to maintain their rights in the disputed property, leaving them free to pursue legal remedies as per the applicable laws.

By Kartik Kandoia, Student At DBRANLU.

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