Supreme Court’s verdict to pay salaries to Imams

H.H. (Adv.) Suresh Kulkarni

1. Is the Supreme Court’s verdict to pay salary to Imams in mosques unconstitutional ?

Mr Subhash Agarwal, an RTI activist in Delhi, had sought information from the Delhi Waqf Board about the amount of salary that has been paid to Imams so far, but he did not receive any information. Eventually, the Commissioner of the Central Information Commission, Mr Uday Mahurkar, ordered the Delhi Waqf Board to provide the information to Mr Agarwal. Mr Mahurkar also asked the Delhi Waqf Board to compensate for the trouble caused due to the delay in providing this information.

Mr Mahurkar said, “In 1993, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of the ‘All India Imam Organisation’ demanding that the Imams get salary from the State Waqf Board for reciting Azan 5 times a day in mosques. After this, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the All India Imam Organisation. This is a ‘violation of the Constitution’, and besides setting a ‘wrong precedent’, it has become a point of unnecessary political slugfest and social disharmony”.

2. Supreme Court’s verdict is nothing short of Muslim appeasement just as political parties do

Mr Mahurkar added that the order violated the provisions that say ‘tax payers money will not be used to favour any particular religion’. He referred to Article 27 of the Constitution. The Government takes the hard-earned money of taxpayers. It is therefore illegal to pay Imams for services in mosques with this money to appease a particular religious community. Such a verdict is unconstitutional. In 1947, India was partitioned and Pakistan was created out of the tendency to appease Muslims. Such a verdict would mean creating the threat of partition again.

Mr Mahurkar did not stop here; he instructed that a copy of this verdict be sent to the Union Law Minister. He said, “It should be ensured that every religion gets equal treatment in the country. Else, the unity and integrity of the country will cease to exist. Also Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution should be used in ‘Letter and Spirit’ (knowing the purpose of the law). Specifically, Article 27 can be interpreted as – the money of taxpayers should not be spent on the salaries of Imams. This information says that the Delhi Government spends Rs 62 crores per year on the salary of Imams, while the Delhi Waqf Board’s own income is only Rs 30 lakh per month. A shocking report has come forth which states that each Imam is paid around Rs 16,000-18,000 for his service in mosques. Mr Mahurkar added that the Hindu temple priests get Rs 1,000-2,000, and that too from a temple taken over by the Government. The Government earns crores of Rupees from these temples”.

Till date no mosque or church has been acquired by the British or any Union Government since Independence. Yet in 1993, the All India Imam Organisation filed a petition directly in the Supreme Court against the Union Government and others. It demanded the salaries be paid to those serving in various mosques, reciting Azan and to the clerics.

The Union Government and State Governments have asserted that – ‘Masjid servers work free-of-charge because of their devotion to religion. Before 1993, the concept of paying wages for services in mosques did not exist in Islam. Also, there is no clause in the Waqf Law by which these people should be paid by the Union Government or the State Governments or by the Central or State Waqf Boards. There is no such Section and basis of law. Therefore, their writ petition should be dismissed’. Despite this rebuttal, the Supreme Court showed its bias and gave this verdict, which discriminates between Hindus and Muslims. This verdict is nothing short of Muslim appeasement similar to what political parties do.

3. The Union Government must discard verdicts of the Supreme Court and High Courts that give special treatment to Muslims

In a Supreme Court verdict on 13th May 1993, the Union Government and the Central Waqf Board were told to make a plan within 6 months regarding paying the Imams who were serving in mosques.

The Union Government should now pass a Bill and discard the verdicts of the Supreme Court or High Courts that give special treatment to Muslims. Majority of Indians think that this work should be expedited by the pro-Hindu Government elected on the basis of Hindu votes.

||Shrikrushnarpanamastu ||

– H.H. (Advocate) Suresh Kulkarni, Bombay High Court. (6.1.2023)

It should be ensured that every religion gets equal treatment. Else, the integrity of the country will cease to exist !