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Withdraw Waqf lease Act : Tenants and traders

  • Trader-tenants of Waqf properties on Sunday staged a protest seeking withdrawal of Waqf (Amendment) Act, 2013 which designates a person as an “encroacher” once the Waqf board stops collecting rent from him and 2014 rules which limit lease period to a “shorter” duration of 30 years.

    An association, representing outfits of traders-tenants, also claimed the Waqf properties were being used by them for over 80 years and they have paid donations to the tune of Rs 60 to Rs 80 lakh, which they insisted be treated as “premium of properties”.

    Waqf properties tenant-traders from Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh took part in the protest held at Jantar Mantar.

    Hari Gidwani, co-owner of Chaina Ram, expressed apprehension that Wakf authorities may ask him and other shopkeepers to vacate and relocate.

    “We are not encroachers. We have been here for the past 70 years and paid a monthly rent, with proper receipt as proof. It will not be easy to relocate the business at this point. Many tenants have established livelihoods and removing them would be disastrous,” he said.

    As per the new Wakf law, once the lease of its commercial property expires the tenants cease to hold the right to occupy the premises. The new owner of the property will be decided through a bidding process that will be advertised.

    “According to the definition of encroacher incorporated in the amendment made in 2013 to the 1995 Waqf Act, a tenant becomes an encroacher the moment Waqf Board stops collecting rent from him/her.

    “Encroacher is the person who is into any property without the knowledge of landlord. We are inducted as the lawful tenant by the Waqf Board. We want the amendment be withdrawn,” Preetpal Singh, vice president of Waqf Tenants Association said during the protest.

    He claimed the trader-tenants have been using the Waqf properties for over 80 years and paid donations of Rs 60 to Rs 80 lakh to the respective state Waqf boards. He insisted the donations be treated as “premium of properties”.

    On the 2014 rules, which say the lease period will vary from three years to 30 years, Singh said “Since we have paid donations, we want a long-term solution to this”.

    “We want the lease period to remain 99 years and not be restricted to 30 only years. The 99-year provision is not our own, but that of land owning agencies of Delhi and India,” he claimed.

    With respect to rent, Singh said the rent recovered from tenants should not be subject to market rates as they have paid donations.

    Singh said the protesters will submit a memorandum in this regard to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minority Affairs minister Najma Heptulla and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

    Dr. Zafar Mahmood, who actively campaigned for the new law, said most of the Wakf properties across the country suffered from encroachment due to the absence of a proper law to deal with the issue.

    “There is an estimated 6 lakh acres of Wakf land in the country, worth Rs. 1.2 lakh crore. The new legislation will provide a perfect mechanism to protect the Wakf properties from encroachment,” he said.


    OUR TAKE

    For many traders and established shopkeepers, all their lives have been spent on gathering the reputation they have earned. Asking them to go find a new place is cruel to say the least. Imagine asking the famed Karim's to move away from their original location and relocate somewhere else. Although just an example, it would give you an idea of what this might mean. While this tussle is here to stay, the protests will continue until a concrete solution is drafted out. It is high time the government gets back to the drawing board and chalks out a rescue plan.


    Visit the Indian Kanoon section of LawRato to learn more on Indian Laws.

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