Explain steps taken to protect Waqf properties: HC

Taking an exception to the response of Waqf board Chief Executive Officer Mohammed Qasim over alleged encroachment of Waqf properties, Telangana High Court on Monday directed the State government to explain what steps it had taken to protect Waqf properties.

A bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy, hearing a couple of PIL petitions over alleged failure of Waqf board in checking encroachment of Muslim graveyards, directed the Municipal Administration principal secretary to file a report within three weeks. The bench also instructed the government to explain to the court during the next hearing about the action taken against Waqf board Chief Executive Officer Mohammed Qasim for his negligence over protection of Waqf properties.

When the pleas came up for hearing, the bench sought to know from the CEO, who was present at the hearing, as to why only five First Information Reports (FIRs) were lodged when there were 86 complaints of illegal encroachments of Waqf properties. The bench wondered what prevented the Waqf board CEO from taking the complaints to its logical end.

If police decline to issue FIRs maintaining the complaints were of civil nature, how would the officials remain quiet, the bench asked. The bench asked the CEO if he did not know the basics of Criminal Procedure Code. To the dismay of the bench, the CEO said he was not familiar with those provisions. Expressing anger over the failure of the CEO in protecting Waqf properties, the bench remarked that it was better to replace the CEO with another officer.

The bench remarked it was not correct to assign the responsibilities of protecting properties to an incapable officer. If the Station House Officers of police stations declined to register criminal cases on alleged encroachments of graveyards, the CEO should have taken up the matter with higher-ups of the police department.

If police refuse to act upon the issue, the Waqf board officials can lodge private complaints in magistrate courts, the bench said. The CEO should have taken opinion of the Waqf board counsel if he was unaware of the law on the matter.

The Waqf board counsel told the bench that issues like inadequate staff members came in the way of protecting the properties. But the bench brushed aside that argument that even courts were not fully equipped with staff but yet they were discharging their duties.

The pleas were posted to next Monday for hearing.

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