Author : Darshi Sanghvi
1993 AIR 2086, 1993 SCR (3) 742
SAHAI, R.M. (J) RAMASWAMY, K. (J)
The mosque is considered to be the centre of community worship where rich or poor, noble or humble Muslims come under one roof for several political, social and cultural functions and stand in rows behind the Imam. Ibn Taymiyah describes a mosque as “a place of fathering where prayer was celebrated and when public affair was conducted”. The Imam, better known as the prayer leader, is considered to be the most important appointee, who is appointed to offer Namaz and several other quotidian services. These services however, are often unrewarded. The present case is an attempt by the Petitioners (Imams) to enforce their fundamental right against exploitation by Wakf Boards.
A petition was filed by Imams in order to enforce their fundamental right against exploitation by the Wakf boards, on the basis of the blinding disproportion between the nature of work and the remuneration paid for it. Imams, appointed duly by the Mutawallis or by the members of the society at large or by the State Wakf Boards of diverse states, are considered to be the religious heads in the mosque who are believed to lead the congregation through their duty of offering prayers. They are responsible for maintaining the cleanliness, calling azans to the whole religious meetings and ultimately, for propagating Islamic faith in entirety. However, under the Islamic religious practice, their service was considered to be voluntary and not entitled to monetary consideration. They may receive some portion out of donations in Mosques by the Mutawallis, but their service is by and large considered to be honorary as Islam does not recognise the concept of priesthood. The Nature of Duty under the Islamic Sharjat also states the same.
- ISSUES AND FACTS OF LAW
- Whether the Imams were entitled to receive remuneration for the services rendered by them?
- Whether the Wakf Act of 1954 vests financial powers over the wakfs, apart from administrative and supervisory powers?
- Whether the wakf boards were entitled to take decisions regarding the basic wages of Imams?
- Whether the right to life of the Imams under Article 21 of the Constitution of India has been violated herein?
- The Apex Court held that the Imams are entitled to receive remuneration for the services rendered by them. It would be wrong for one to state that the Board has no control over the mosque or Imams. Some may render services as part of religious observance, but for several others, it is the only means of livelihood.
- Article 21 of the Constitution of India includes the right to live life with dignity. It is wrong to claim that the Imams are not entitled to emoluments, solely because they primarily perform religious duties. The Court further states that the financial difficulties of the institution cannot be above fundamental right of a citizen in any case and it is the Board’s responsibility to find a way to pay the persons who carry out the most important duty of performing the prayer, on the basis of which a mosque operates.
- The Central Wakf Board must prepare a scheme regarding the remuneration of the Imams within 6 months for different mosques, in accordance with the details furnished through the affidavit filed by the Delhi Wakf Board. In mosques not registered with the Board of their States or not manned by believers of Islamic faith, the remuneration to such Imams shall be provided according to the pay scale prevalent in Punjab and Haryana.
- The order for payment to Imams shall come into operation from 1st Dec. 1993. If the scheme is not prepared within the specified time limit, then it shall operate retrospectively from 1st December, 1993.