The court asked the companies to approach the tribunal on wakf disputes to challenge the wakf board's decision. It also refused to vacate the injunction order given by the wakf tribunal earlier which restrained the private companies from any land transaction in this respect. Some companies, including Lanco and Emaar, have been using this land for real estate business.
The companies are likely to approach the Supreme Court, contending that land was given to them by the government. Some of the petitioners have been arguing for long that the land was given to these companies at much below market prices and want the companies to cough up a fair value to the wakf board.
The division bench of Justices V V S Rao and Reddy Kantha Rao held that when a statutory forum like the waqf tribunal established under the provisions of the Waqf Act is available, it is not proper for the state and other parties to file writ petitions in the high court, particularly when some interested parties have raised this issue before the tribunal and it was hearing the matter.
"We are not impressed with the submissions of the advocate general that the issues raised before the high court are beyond the purview of the jurisdiction of the tribunal," the bench said. "The tribunal should independently decide the matter uninfluenced by the observations made by us during the course of the hearing of the case."
The contention of the state and the private companies is that according to a notification issued in 1989, the waqf board owns only 5,500 square yards in the form of a dargah at Manikonda. However, according to them, on April 6, 2006, the board notified (through an errata to the gazette) an area of 1,650 acres around the dargah as land attached to the shrine and declared the entire area waqf property. The state contended this was illegal and beyond the powers of the board.
Referring to several Supreme Court rulings, the HC bench headed by Justice Rao held the waqf board has powers under Sections 6, 7, 41, 83 and 85 of the Waqf Act to cause registration of wakfs or to amend registration of waqfs. The bench also told Akbaruddin Owaisi and Rehaman, the legislators who filed PILs, to implead themselves in the suits pending with the tribunal. The AP Waqf Board and Muslim community hailed the decision.