SMC Asserts Rights Over Mughal Sarai: Board’s Directive Challenged After 150 Years of Operational Office during Shah Jahan’s Era

Abdullah Jarullah, aged 72 from Surat, approached the Gujarat Waqf Board to declare the Mughal Sarai Building in Surat, which houses the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) office, as Waqf property. He filed a petition, and after five years, the Waqf Board approved the petitioner’s plea and declared the SMC office as Waqf. However, the Surat Municipal Commissioner challenged the Waqf Board’s decision before the Gujarat Waqf Tribunal, which deemed the Waqf Board’s decision invalid upon SMC’s appeal.

150 Years of Office

The case regarding the Mughal Sarai, now the Humayun Sarai, was brought to light by advocate D. Pandya. According to details, the Surat Municipal Corporation’s office is located on Girdhandas Chokhawala Road. This building was waqfed by Isaq Beg Azadi, also known as Hakikat Khan, in 1644 when he held land in Surat. The property covers an area of ​​5663 square meters and has housed the Municipal Corporation office for the past 150 years.

Decision Made Ignoring Valid Documents

The claim of this property to be waqfed was made in 2015 and was publicly declared as such in 2021. However, the SMC appealed to the Gujarat Waqf Tribunal in 2021, stating that they have had control of the property for years without any challenge. The Waqf Board made the decision without considering valid documents and SMC’s evidence. The Waqf Board accepted Abdullah Jarullah’s claims without any doubt. The property was previously used for military purposes, and a one-sided decision was taken by the Waqf Board.

Implementation of the Waqf Act 1995

The SMC also presented documentary evidence before the Waqf Tribunal, including a copy of the certificate issued by the Surat Collector under British rule, along with property records from the Municipal Corporation. The SMC stated that the property was not included in the waqf list even after the implementation of the Waqf Act in 1995. This application is being made 21 years after the enactment of the Waqf Act. There has been no movement of travelers’ accommodations since 1867.

Discovery of Inscriptions in Persian

Abdullah Jarullah and the Waqf Board presented evidence that two inscriptions in Persian were found by archaeologist R.D. Banerjee in 1921 from the Mughal Sarai, now known as the Prince William Museum in Mumbai, currently named after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. According to these inscriptions, this property belongs to the waqf. This information is available on the SMC website. The Waqf Board decided after a thorough investigation of Abdullah Jarullah’s petition, who had also filed a petition in the High Court, which was subsequently withdrawn. These inscriptions and articles have become significant evidence in the Babri Masjid dispute. Once waqfed, the property remains waqf. Abdullah Jarullah had also submitted a photo copy of the Indo-Muslim epitaph before the Waqf Board.

Tribunal Hears Arguments from All Parties

The Waqf Tribunal heard arguments from all parties and issued detailed orders. It was noted by the Waqf Tribunal that Abdullah Jarullah doesn’t possess original documents, but photocopies of his photos have been submitted before the Waqf Board. The claimant doesn’t hold the ownership of this property as per the Waqf Board’s information. According to the instructions of the Waqf Board, Abdullah Jarullah has not advertised his ownership or rights in well-known newspapers regarding waqf or to get his claim acknowledged. Furthermore, the photocopies submitted by the claimant are also invalid. The letter was written to Mohammad Madani, the principal business official of the Delhi Jamaat Ulama-e-Hind, to pressurize the Waqf Board. No significant progress has been made by any of the disputing parties. It wasn’t stated that the property is waqf, nor has it been mentioned whose rights, fundamental rights, are being violated if it is not waqf.

Vijabil Also in the Name of the Municipality

Even though the current building is included in the government’s revenue records, no rent is being collected. All procedures were followed under the rules to include the building in the revenue records and issue property cards. It is also in the name of the municipality. Obtaining proofs of this property is currently challenging. In the dispute of ownership, initially, it was under the Municipality, Municipality, and then in 1966 it became a Municipal Corporation. The property was used at one time for military weapons, warehouses, and jails. The claimant did not even fill out the application in a proper format. There is no mention of what type of waqf it is. The income from the property, the salary of the caretaker, has not been demonstrated. The property’s inclusion in the PTR of the Charity Commissioner is not recorded. Moreover, there is no mention in the records of the Shilalekh. There is no mention of Humayun Sarai anywhere.

Abdullah Jarullah Calls it Humayun Sarai

The disputed property is known as Mughal Sarai, which Abdullah Jarullah calls Humayun Sarai. At that time, Aurangzeb was the prince of Gujarat. According to the inscription, the travelers and beggars who came to the Sarai did not have to pay rent. However, pilgrims who received rent from other people had to give it to the travelers. Hindu or Jain deities’ images can be found in the inscriptions. The Waqf Board has violated the instructions to waqf this property. It is noteworthy that Surat was known as Babul Mecca.

Construction of Sarai from Port Revenue

In 1868, Rs. 33,080 was spent to convert the Sarai into a Municipality. The Waqf Board has violated natural principles. The construction of this Sarai was carried out from the revenue generated from the Surat Port, which was not the king’s money. Property earned according to Muslim religion can be waqf. The Waqf Tribunal has been misled by the Waqf Board’s decisions, which allowed SMC’s appeal without considering them.

Niyati Rao

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