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Wakf board claimed 5-star Hotel Marriot in Hyderabad as its property, Telangana High Court quashes petition in the decades-old dispute

Viceroy Hotels, now known as Hotel Marriot, had filed a petition challenging the actions of the Andhra Pradesh State Wakf Board declaring the hotel a wakf property

The Telangana State Wakf Board, Hyderabad filed a plea asserting ownership rights over the renowned Hotel Marriot in the city, but the Telangana High Court recently dismissed the appeal, reported LawBeat. A division bench comprised of Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice Anil Kumar Jukanti issued a writ of prohibition against the Wakf Board and noted that “the initiation of the proceeding by the Wakf Board is in excess of jurisdiction.”

Viceroy Hotels, now known as Hotel Marriot, brought a petition challenging the actions of the Andhra Pradesh State Wakf Board. The request raised issues with an addendum notification dated 23rd August 2007 and the start of proceedings under Section 54 of the Wakf Act, 1995 which resulted in a highly contentious legal dispute.

After investigating in accordance with the Wakf Act of 1954, the board on 5th October 1958 through a resolution pronounced that the property in question did not belong to the Wakf. Later claims did, however, surface most notably when Abdul Gafoor filed a civil suit in 1964 seeking Wakf status over the property. The Wakf Board continued to stand by its arguments in the face of legal challenges and judicial orders, including one from the High Court in 1968.

The Wakf Board issued notifications and initiated proceedings over the years, the most recent of which occurred in 2014. The present case resulted from the Wakf Board’s pursuit of the matter in defiance of earlier court decisions and protests lodged by the petitioners. A newspaper article threatening legal action by the Wakf Board against the petitioners startled them. They promptly retaliated, citing earlier rulings that supported their position. However, the Wakf Board remained undismayed and carried on with its legal activities, which resulted in the present writ petitions being submitted in opposition to its conduct.

The court granted an interim injunction that forbade the Wakf Tribunal from rendering any unfavourable decisions against the petitioners while the procedures were still in progress, acknowledging the gravity and urgency of the situation.

The court cited the Wakf Act of 1954, emphasizing Section 27 which gives the Wakf Board the authority to establish whether a property qualifies as its possession. Furthermore, the board’s decision made in compliance with Section 27(1) is final unless a civil court revokes or modifies it. “In the instant case, the Wakf Board conducted an enquiry under Section 27 of the 1954 Act and determined to vide resolution dated 05.10.1958 that the subject property is not a Wakf property,” it pointed out.

The court also referenced an earlier decision in the case rendered by the Andhra Pradesh High Court, which stated in an order dated 5th September 1968, that “once determination has been held under Section 27 of the 1954 Act that subject property is not a wakf property, it would not be permissible for the Wakf Board to examine the issue again. Accordingly, a writ of prohibition was issued.”

The Wakf Board had a pattern of behaviour regarding the subject property that the court observed. The board continued to assert that the land was Wakf land in spite of previous pronouncements and court proceedings. Initially, the Wakf Board alleged that the petitioners had encroached under Section 54(1) of the 1995 Act in a notification that it issued. Its contention was refuted by the petitioners in response, but no further action was taken for a period of seven years.

Following this prolonged time frame, a second notification was sent out in 2005, reiterating that the concerned land belonged to Wakf. The petitioner countered the statement in great detail in a thorough representation. Nonetheless, the Wakf Board refrained from commencing eviction procedures pursuant to Section 54 of the 1995 Act until 2014.

The Wakf Board passed an errata notification twenty-four years later, and the court examined its legitimacy. It stipulated that errata notices are designed to remedy typographical or clerical errors and cannot broaden the scope of the original notification. The erratum notification in this case covered a noticeably larger amount of land, leading the court to conclude that it constituted a fresh notification. It declared that such an action required a proper probe or survey report and went beyond acceptable corrections.

The notification of 12th July 1984 and the amendment dated 23rd August 2007, per the court, did not only restate the prior notification. They essentially constituted a replacement of the initial notification which was illegal to do after 24 years had passed. Furthermore, it was adjudged that “the petitioners cannot be allowed to suffer legal injury merely because they have a statutory remedy available under the 1995 Act, especially in a case where the initiation of proceeding itself is vitiated in law.”

As a result, the Wakf Board’s addendum notification was declared invalid by the court and the organisation was ordered to cease all future eviction operations by means of a writ of prohibition.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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