Waqf board claims that Ambani’s Antilla land sale is illegal

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Mumbai: The State Waqf Board ratified the sale of land more than 12 years, on which Reliance Group Chairman Mukesh Ambani’s private residence Antilia stands in South Mumbai and the board has termed the sale illegal and sought restoration of the land adding to it, it is said that the sale ratification could be politically motivated.

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According to reports, the dispute has been started since 2004, has got a new twist that a fresh affidavit filed by Sandesh Tadvi, in charge chief executive officer of Maharashtra State Board of Waqfs and joint secretary of the minority development department in the state government. The then CEO of the Board had issued a notice for the first time to the seller trust as well as purchaser – Antilia Commercial Pvt Ltd (ACPL) – in April 2004.

The affidavit says, “A mischief was committed by the chairman and the then CEO that they passed a resolution dated 09/03/2005 thereby ratifying the sale of the land.” And the affidavit says that the chairman was political person.

The affidavit says that the sale required prior permission of the Waqf Board; the resolution clearing the sale required two-thirds majority of the Board; and the permission had to be published in the Official Gazette – none of which was followed and the affidavit was filed after a division bench headed by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur sought a clarification in July this year from the Board on its stand.

“The dispute is an over 4,500 sq mt land where once Currimbhoy Ebrahim Khoja Orphanage Trust used to run an orphanage meant to provide maintenance and education to poor and destitute children belonging to Khoja community. The land was sold to ACPL in 2002 after the trust sought permission from the Charity Commissioner to do so, which was granted in August that year.”

The APCL & Trust stands that land did not come under Waqf but under the Charity Commissioner, and once the Charity Commissioner had granted the permission, Waqf had no role to play.

The orphanage trust challenged both the parties by issuing waqf notice and latter with amicable resolution both trust & board settle the case and a resolution dated March 9, 2005 ratifying the sale was passed by the Board – which has now been termed “mischievous.”

On this point, Tadvi’s affidavit also alleges the settlement said that the Trustees accepted that the Trust would come under Waqf, and a Waqf fund of Rs 16 lakh would be paid. A list of Waqf properties published in 2003 included the said land, but was never challenged by the trust at that point. The case didn’t end up there and the Trust filed a fresh petition in HC challenging the list of Waqf properties, saying that it would not come under the Waqf Board. Lastly the Trust ultimately won the case in August 2015, but the state government as well as the Waqf Board challenged this order in the Supreme Court, and the case is still pending over there.

During that period, a Jalna- based teacher, Abdul Matin, filed a public interest litigation in HC in 2007, challenging the approval for sale of land granted by the Charity Commissioner andTadvi has now filed the affidavit seeking restoration of the land. The HC is likely to hear the case on December 7.

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