Documents accessed by Greater Kashmir reveal several cases of embezzlement of funds and corruption in J&K Muslim Waqf Board, which is the second largest asset rich organisation after the state government.
Waqf was established in 1940 by National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as Muslim Auqaf Trust with an objective to help the needy and downtrodden sections of Muslims in the state. In 2003, the PDP-led coalition government took control of the assets of the Muslim Auqaf Trust and rechristened it as J&K Muslim Waqf Board, while also promising to bring necessary reform in the board. But there was no visible improvement in its working.
In 2007, about 14 to 15 shopkeepers were evicted from Waqf Complex at Boulevard (known as Gulmarg Hotel). The shopkeepers filed a writ petition which was eventually dismissed. But they appealed before the High Court which dismissed the appeal and asked to seal the property. "Keeping in view Section 22-B and 22-G of the Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Specified Wakfs and Specified properties, Management & Regulation Act 2004-2005, the following Specified Wakf properties were locked and sealed by the J&K Muslim Wakf Board on 29-12-2015. Shop No's 12, 25, 36 & 40 Room No's 14 A&B, 11A, 4AB, 3B, 12A, 16AB, & 12B and Hall one," reads the Wakf Board document accessed by Greater Kashmir. "The Waqf property was auctioned by the Board in 2006 and Rs 20 lakhs plus license fee as per the prevalent market rate was offered by the bidders and accepted by the Board," the document states.
"The possessions of the said premises were handed over to the highest bidders. After the judgments of the division Bench of the High court the next course of action in this regard was to conduct the public auction and it was expected that at least 10 crores will be offered by the interesting parties as premium plus license fee as per the prevalent market rate, but the Board opened the locks of the Waqf property and handed it over to the evicted persons eventually causing crores of losses," reads the document.
In another instance of corruption and favoritism, an apartment at Gupkar that belonged to Waqf Board was given to a politician's daughter. "Set No. 5 and 6 comprising 6 bedrooms, 2 kitchens and two washrooms were under the use of some private individuals who were defaulters and their licence had also expired," reads the document. "Accordingly, keeping in view Sub Section 2 of the Section 22-B of J&K Muslim Specified Waqs and specified Waqf Act 2004 /2005, the users were evicted and the property was locked and sealed by the Waqf Board".
"The next course of action on part of Muslim Waqf Board was to notify the aforesaid Waqf property for public auction subject to the payment of premium and license fee as per the prevalent market rates as laid down in the act," the document adds.
But ignoring the provisions of the law and guidance of Supreme Court, the apartment was allotted in favour of daughter of a former minister. The order was later cancelled.
As per the Waqf Board document, a prime location at Dalgate was encroached in 2007 by two individuals, who subsequtently constructed a restaurant there.
"The matter was discussed so many times by the authorities and it was suggested that the unauthorized construction may be removed or sealed so that the public auction may be conducted in this regard. But the encroachment was regularized by Waqf Board last year and the hotel owners were asked to pay rent from 2017, as per the present market rate. The board cancelled all backlog amounts that the hoteliers had to pay since 2007. Keeping in view the ground reality and provisions of the law, the Waqf has to lose one crore by facilitating the aforesaid encroacher," reveals the document.
There is no provision in the Jammu and Kashmir Waqf Act wherein sublet cases can be regularised. But since last year, without any authority and in contravention of the law, the Waqf Board regularised the subletting cases, eventually causing losses in crores. Also, the Waqf Board has failed to cancel the lease deed with a local hotel at Lal Chowk here. The lease is in contravention of the Waqf law. "The users of the said property are the defaulters of an amount more than one crore and the matter stands referred to DC Srinagar for recovery," the document states.
When contacted chief executive officer Jammu and Kashmir Waqf Board said "I don't know about these orders. I have no knowledge about the apartment that was given to a former minister's daughter at Gupkar. I learnt about the order when it was cancelled," he said. However, he maintained that "Waqf needs improvement."