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CIC says Supreme Court’s 1993 order on salaries for Imams in Delhi in violation of the constitution; these salaries saw a hike under CM Kejriwal

In 2019, Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal announced a salary hike for Imams of Delhi mosques, from Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000.

On Friday, November 25, the Central Information Commission (CIC) said that the 1993 Supreme Court order allowing remuneration to imams and Muslim clerics in the mosques in Delhi was in violation of the Constitutional provisions that state that taxpayers’ money will not be used to favour any particular religion.

BJP leader Amit Malviya took to Twitter on Saturday (November 26) to share a copy of the order passed by the Central Information Commission.

The Supreme Court, in 1993 , on a petition from the All India Imam Organisation had directed the Waqf board to give remuneration to imams in mosques managed by it. In recent years, the Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal announced a salary hike for Imams of Delhi mosques, from Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000.

While hearing an RTI application filed by an activist Subhash Agarwal demanding details of salaries to imams by the Delhi government and the Delhi Waqf Board, Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar also observed that besides setting a “wrong precedent”, the SC’s decision has become a source of unnecessary political skirmishes and social discord.

Uday Mahurkar directed that a copy of his order be forwarded to the Union law minister with appropriate action in order to maintain equality among all religions in terms of monthly remuneration to priests of all religions at the expense of the public exchequer.

The Information Commissioner added that it should be ensured that the provisions of Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution are enforced in the letter.

“Further with regard to the judgment by the Supreme Court in the case between the ‘All India Imam Organisation vs Union Of India And Ors’ on 13 May 1993, that opened the doors to special financial benefits from the public treasury to only imams and muezzins in mosques, the commission observes that the highest court of the country in passing this order acted in violation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 27, which says taxpayers money will not be used to favour any particular religion,” Mahurkar said.

“The commission notes that the said judgment sets a wrong precedent in the country and has become a point of unnecessary political slugfest and also social disharmony in the society,” the information commissioner added.

He also ordered the Delhi Waqf Board to compensate RTI activist Subhash Agrawal for the time and resources he spent pursuing the response to his plea. The activist had received no appropriate response to his application, asserted Mahurkar.

CIC says the decision encourages pan-Islamist tendencies

“It is necessary to note here that it was the policy of giving special benefits to the Muslim community before 1947 that played a key role in encouraging pan-Islamic and fissiparous tendencies in a section of Muslims, ultimately leading to the nation’s partition,” the information commissioner said.

Giving remuneration to imams and others only in mosques, according to the information commissioner, amounts to not only betraying the Hindu community and members of other non-Muslim minority religions, but also encourages pan-Islamist tendencies among a section of Indian Muslims that are already visible.

Commissioner Mahurkar also noted that the Delhi Waqf Board (DWB) receives an annual grant of approximately Rs 62 crore from the Delhi government, while its own monthly income from independent sources is just approximately Rs 30 lakh.

“So the monthly honorarium of ₹18,000 and ₹16,000 being given to the imams and muezzins of DWB mosques in Delhi is being paid by the Delhi government virtually from the taxpayers’ money which in turn is in sharp contrast with the example quoted by the appellant in which the priest of a Hindu temple is getting a paltry amount”, he added.

CIC slams Delhi Waqf Board for trying to hide information

Mahurkar slammed the Delhi Waqf Board by asserting that initially, the Islamic board had denied that salaries were given to imams but later in a revised reply it said that it is only an honorarium, not a salary.

“The commission observes that there was a clear attempt to hide the information in the initial period by a play of words which showed complete lack of transparency on the part of the respondent authorities in a case which in turn affects the provisions of the Constitution, and also social harmony and uniform applicability of laws for all religions in keeping with the constitutional direction that citizens of all religions be treated equally,” he said.

Mahurkar directed the Delhi Waqf Board and the office of the Delhi Chief Minister to provide responses to the RTI application of Agrawal.

Kejriwal announces salary hike for Muslim clerics, BJP accuses AAP of appeasement politics

Notably, in January 2019, the CM of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal announced a salary hike for Imams of Delhi mosques, from Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000. The salary of the helpers was increased from Rs 9,000 per month to Rs 16,000 per month. The amount is received by the recipient clergies in their respective bank accounts.

In 2020, during the discussion on the motion of thanks on the president’s address, Bhartiya Janta Party’s MP from West Delhi, Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma attacked the Aam Aadmi Party over its mismanagement in Delhi. He accused the Kejriwal-led government of favouring Islamic clerics or “imams” by giving them 18,000 rupees from the taxpayers’ money. Parvesh Verma furthermore said that the Kejriwal government conveniently forgets the temple’s pujari and the gurudwara’s granthi.

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