Question as to property being a Wakf property or not is to be decided by Wakf Tribunal irrespective of the religious status of parties

Supreme Court: In an appeal against the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court where it was held that the Wakf Tribunal has no jurisdiction in a matter where the rights of a non-Muslim are in question and that it is only the Civil Court which had the jurisdiction in the such cases, the bench of Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph, JJ noticed that:

“The defendant in written statement has pleaded that the suit property is not Wakf property. When issue in the suit is as to whether suit property is Wakf property or not it is covered by specific provision of Sections 6 and 7 of the Wakf Act, 1995, hence, it is required to be decided by the Tribunal under Section 83 and bar under Section 85 shall come into existence with regard to jurisdiction of Civil Court.”

Background of the case:

  • The Punjab Wakf Board claimed to the owner of a land which it had allegedly let out to one Sham Singh and his wife Kuldeep Kaur for cultivation of the land.
  • The lessee deposited the rent for few years and thereafter initiated litigation against the interest of the Board claiming that the said property was not a wakf property.
  • When the suit was transferred to the Wakf Tribunal after it was constituted, the Board filed an application before the Tribunal for rejection of the plaint on the ground that the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to entertain the suit and the Civil Court alone has jurisdiction to entertain the suit. However, the Tribunal held that it is only the Wakf Tribunal which has jurisdiction to try the present suit.
  • Board approached the High Court which held that the Wakf Tribunal has no jurisdiction in a matter where the rights of a non-Muslim are in question.

Considering the abovementioned facts, the Court said that the defendant has specifically denied that suit property is a Wakf property. Thus,

“within the meaning of sub-section (1) of Section 6 question that whether a suit property is a Wakf property or not has arisen. Thus, the suit wherein the above question has arisen ought to be considered by the Tribunal and the High Court clearly erred in allowing the revision filed by the Board.”

It was clarified that as per Section 6 sub-section (1) if any question arises as to whether a Wakf property in the list of Wakfs is wakf property or not, a suit can be instituted in a Tribunal for the decision of the question which decision shall be treated as final.

On the question that whether a suit within the meaning of Section 6 sub-section (1) or Section 7(1) is to be filed within a period of one year of publication of list of Wakfs under Section 5, the Court said:

“The provision contained in proviso to Section 6(1) that no such suit shall be entertained by the Tribunal after the expiry of one year from the date of the publication of the list of Wakfs shall be applicable to every person who though not interested in the Wakf concerned, is interested in such property and to whom a reasonable opportunity had been afforded to represent his case by notice served on 63 him in that behalf during the course of the relevant inquiry under Section 4.”

[Punjab Wakf Board v. Sham Singh Harike, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 142, decided on 07.02.2019]

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