A R Sheikh, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Maharashtra State Wakf Board, has been transferred out, having gone to the Supreme Court against development at a prime plot in Mumbai on which Reliance Industries Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani was developing his 27-story skyscraper named Antilla.
Sheikh said he received the order from the Wakf Board on May 3 ending his deputation. “I have been asked to hand over charge and report back to my parent department (the Rural Development Department),” he added, declining to say whether the transfer was in response to his Supreme Court filing.
Sheikh claimed that the transfer orders were “apparently defective” because, despite being a member of the newly formed Minority Welfare Department (as the Wakf Board CEO), the orders removing him were issued by the Revenue Department.
“I am ready to comply with the orders.. But the (Wakf) board members are asking me not to hand over charge,” Sheikh stated. In Maharashtra, the Wakf Board is the custodian of Wakf properties.
In Islamic law, a waqf property is permanently dedicated to Allah, and once a property is dedicated as waqf, it remains as waqf forever signifying that a waqf is perpetual, inalienable and irrevocable in nature.
Waqf literally means ‘detention’ as when a waqf is created, the property is detained; neither the person who created the waqf nor its beneficiaries are entitled to ownership. A waqf becomes a public property that cannot be given away, sold, mortgaged, inherited, or otherwise disposed of. Moreover, this property cannot be used for any other purpose except for charity.
In 2002, Ambani’s Antilia Commercial Private Ltd paid roughly Rs 21 crore for 4,532 sq m of land on Altamont Road in South Mumbai from Currimbhoy Ebrahim Khoja Orphanage in a public auction. On the property, he is constructing a 27-story skyscraper.
Sheikh claimed that on July 3, 2007, the state government ordered the board to take action to “restore the Wakf property,” claiming that the trustees had “illegally sold it.” The Bombay High Court stopped the action, and a petition was filed in the Supreme Court “as per the board’s judgement,” requesting for the work on the site to be halted or the HC stay to be lifted.