Mumbai: The sale of land on which Mukesh Ambani’s home Antilia is built was illegal and against the provisions of the Waqf Act, the acting CEO of Maharashtra State Board of Waqf has stated in an affidavit before the Bombay High Court.
Almost 10 years after Abdul Mateen, a teacher and journalist from Jalna district of Maharashtra filed a petition against the sale of the Waqf land in the upmarket Altamount Road to Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, the Maharashtra Waqf has finally replied.
Sandesh C Tadvi, Joint Secretary, Minority Development Department and acting CEO of State Board of Wakf, has said that ‘mischief’ was committed by the then Chairman and CEO of the State Board of Waqf in passing a resolution dated March 9, 2005, ratifying the sale of land.
The ratification of the said land which is in the eye of the controversy is that of a piece of property owned by Currimbhoy Ebrahim Khoja orphanage trust which used to run an orphanage for 'providing maintenance and education of poor and destitute children belonging to the Khoja community.'
The affidavit was filed after a bench headed by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur directed the State Board of Waqf in an order dated July 21, 2017, to clarify their stand regarding the challenge to the Charity Commissioner’s permission in favour of the orphanage for sale of land.
The land was sold to Ambani's company Antilia Commercial Private Limited (ACPL) in 2002, after the orphanage trust sought permission from charity commissioner to do so on August 27, 2002. No permission from the Waqf board was taken.
Tadvi in his affidavit states that in 2003 Waqf board had published a list of all the properties that it owned and this was not challenged by the trustees of the orphanage by filing any suit in the Waqf Tribunal.
Antilia was also in news back in 2014, when in a letter dashed to then Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde a Mumbai NGO had alleged that Reliance Industries Chief Mukesh Ambani had grabbed Waqf land by fraudulent means and urged the government to initiate a high-level enquiry by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Ambani and others involved in the case.
"Government cannot reject a CBI inquiry on the ground that a probe is being currently conducted under the provisions of Commission of Inquiry Act 2003", President of the NGO Muslim-e-Hind, Ameen Idrisi, said while citing the example of the Adarsh Society scam in which simultaneous probes were conducted by the CBI and the judicial commission set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act.
"In Antilia matter too, CBI should launch FIR against the accused Mukesh Ambani, against the officials of Maharashtra Waqf Board and against the Minister of Waqf from 2003 till date for facilitating the accused Mukesh Ambani to encroach upon a Waqf Property and hatching a conspiracy to grab waqf property by adopting fraud", Idrisi added while addressing a press meet at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh on Saturday.
"The illegal role of the Charity Commissioner and the trustees should also be investigated by the CBI", he demanded.
The then Waqf minister Nawab Malik had opposed the land sale and so did the revenue department of the Government of Maharashtra. A stay order was consequently issued on the sale of the land in 2003.
Also in 2003, the Waqf board initially opposed the deal and filed a PIL in the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the trust. The Supreme Court however dismissed the petition and asked the Waqf board to approach the Bombay High court.