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Supreme Court disposes of SLP against removal of Rajasthan Wakf Board chairman, leaves scope of social work undecided

The Supreme Court has recently declined to hear a Special Leave Petition (SLP) challenging the removal of former Rajasthan Wakf Board Chairman Sayyed Abu Bakar Naqvi by the Rajasthan High Court and disposed of it as infructuous since the Chairman’s term of five years as a member had come to an end.

The Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian was to interpret the term “social work,” but since the SLP became infructuous as the chairman’s term elapsed, the Court on October 6 declined to entertain the plea, leaving the question of law open.

The Apex Court was to decide if the heads under which Naqvi claimed social work experience would be considered so, and, two, if the Rajasthan HC single judge erred in entertaining the writ petition, which ought to have been filed as a PIL, for issuance of writ of Quo Warranto, and therefore placed before a Division Bench. 

Naqvi had moved the SLP against the Rajasthan High Court division bench order upholding the single bench verdict removing him from Rajasthan Wakf Board membership. He had been nominated as a RWB member on March 9, 2016 for his social work experience and subsequently became chairman. The High Court said the state government had violated provisions of the Waqf Act 1995 in nominating him.

In his SLP, Naqvi listed his social work. He was the Secretary of the Rajasthan State Employees Federation, the State President of the Rajasthan Primary and Secondary Teachers Federation. He also worked as the State President of Muslim Mahasabha Sansthan, Tonk, Rajasthan, which worked for the welfare of all sections of Muslims, particularly the poor and destitute women and children. Naqvi said he has contributed in the fields of education, employment, developing patriotism, circulating schemes of the government to society and insisting on education of Muslim women. Until February 4, 2016, Naqvi said he was working as a Physical Training Instructor in a Govt Upper Primary School before he took voluntary retirement.

In July 2017, three persons, Syed Nazeer Hasan, Maimuna Nargis and Musrat, respondent 3 to 5, without having any locus standi, challenged his nomination as Rajasthan Wakf Board Member before the High Court of Rajasthan at Jaipur in SB Civil Writ Petition No 12623 of 2017. They said Naqvi had no social work experience and had been a physical training instructor in a government school, and therefore was not fit to be nominated as a member by the state government.

Naqvi objected to the writ petition, both on merits as well as on its maintainability and the inordinate delay in filing it. In his reply, he contended that the writ petition was filed belatedly and suffered from the serious infirmities for not placing on record the petitioner’s appointment order though the petitioner’s appointment as Chairman of the Rajasthan Wakf Board was challenged in the writ petition. On merits also, the petitioner contended that the writ petition was liable to be dismissed being bereft of any merit as the petitioner was a social worker and eligible for being nominated as a member of the Wakf Board, and the State Government after due verification of facts and eligibility and credentials of the petitioner as required under section 14 (1) (c) & section 16 of the Wakf Act, nominated him as a member of the Rajasthan Wakf Board.

The state also objected to the said petition on the ground of locus standi of Resp. 3 to 5 (writ petitioners) and also on the ground that the petitioner nomination as Rajasthan Wakf Board Member was as per law.

The Single-Judge Bench of the High Court, however, vide judgment and order dated December 4, 2017, allowed the said writ petition holding that Naqvi was not having requisite qualification and his nomination was not in consonance with provisions of the Wakf Act. It set aside the nomination of Naqvi as a member of Rajasthan Wakf Board and repelled the contention on the question of maintainability and the inordinate delay in filing the writ petition.

Naqvi then challenged the said judgment and order before the Division Bench of the High Court of Rajasthan in DB Civil Special Appeal (Writ) No. 2011/2017. The Division Bench vide the impugned judgment and final order dated May 8, 2018 dismissed the said appeal, upholding the setting aside of nomination of the petitioner as a member of the Rajasthan Wakf Board.

In the SLP, Naqvi said the High Court single bench erroneously held that the writ petitioners, being members of the Muslim community concerned with the Muslim Wakf Board, were entitled to file the instant writ petition as the writ can be filed by any individual concerned with the activity of the Board, and it is not necessary that a PIL be filed for it.

Naqvi was represented by Advocate Shariq Ahmed and the State of Rajasthan by its Additional Advocate General and senior advocate Manish Singhvi.

The Division Bench erroneously upheld the judgment of the Single Judge and failed to properly appreciate the materials on record, which clearly established that the petitioner is having requisite qualification to be nominated as a member of the Rajasthan Wakf Board. The petitioner said he has also been given certificate in appreciation of his social work.

Naqvi said the Division Bench, while refusing the interim stay, posted the matter for February 20, 2018 for final disposal of the Appeal, however, the matter could not be heard and decided even after a lapse of more than three months. So, the petitioner was constrained to approach the Supreme Court in SLP (C) No. 11854 of 2018 against the said interim order dated January 12, 2018, whereby the stay was refused and the petitioner was restrained from functioning as a member of Rajasthan Wakf Board.

On May 1, 2018, the Apex Court dismissed the said Special Leave Petition vide order dated May 1, 2018, however, it directed the Division Bench of Rajasthan High Court to dispose of the said D.B. Civil Special Appeal (Writ) No. 2011 of 2017 expeditiously, he added.

As per direction of the Supreme Court, the said Special Appeal was heard and decided by the Division Bench of the High Court on May 8, 2018. The Court dismissed the said D.B. Civil Special Appeal (Writ) No. 2011 of 2017, upholding the setting aside of nomination of the petitioner as a member of Rajasthan Wakf Board.

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