1. The petitioner and ten others were appointed as members of the District Wakf Committee, Chittoor District for a period of three years. The Andhra Pradesh Wakf Board accorded sanction for the reconstitution of the District Wakf Committee. As the term of the Office for the District Wakf Committee expired on 1-10-1972 (sic), the Wakf Board extended the term of Office of the said committee for a further period of six months commencing from 1-10-1972 (sic) or till a new committee is reconstituted whichever is earlier.
2. The petitioner received a copy of the proceedings of the Andhra Pradesh Wakf Board dated 10-12-1973 pertaining to the reconstitution of the District Committee for Chittoor District with effect from the date of the order. The Inspector-Auditor of Wakf, Chittoor District was directed to obtain complete change from the ex-President and hand over to the new President.
3. Questioning the validity of the reconstitution of the Committee by the Board on 10-12-1973, the petitioner filed an application under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for the issuance of a Writ of Mandamus directing the State of Andhra Pradesh the 1st respondent, the Secretary, Andhra Pradesh Wakf Board, the 2nd respondent and the District Wakf Committee, Chittoor District, the 3rd respondent to act under the Wakf Act of 1954 and refrain from taking any action against the petitioner and other members of the District Wakf Committee constituted as per Andhra Pradesh Wakf Board's resolution dated 4-9-1969 and continued in Board's Resolution No. 17/73 dated 19-1-1973.
4. Sri S.M. Hasan, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner contended that the proceedings of the Wakf Board dated 10-12-1973 directing the reconstitution of the Wakf Committee are null and void as the term of the Wakf Board itself by then expired and the Government acted without any jurisdiction in extending the period of that Board.
5. The learned Government Pleader contended, supported by the learned counsel for the re-constituted Committee that the re-constitution of the Committee is valid and the term of the Wakf Board also was extended legally.
6. The Wakf Act, 1954 was enacted with a view to providing for the better administration and supervision of Wakfs. The expression 'Board' is defined under Section 3(c) of the Act to mean 'a Board of Wakf established under Sub-section (1) or as the case may be, under Sub-section (1-A) of Section 9.'
7. Section 9 (1) provides for the establishment of a Board of Wakf through the issuance of a notification in the Official Gazette by the State Government. Under sub-section (2) of the said section, the Board shall be a body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal with power to acquire and hold property and to transfer any such property subject to such conditions and restrictions as may be prescribed and shall by the said name sue and be sued.
8. Section 10 provides for the composition of a Board. The Board under that section shall consist of eleven members, in the case of a State and the Union Territory of Delhi and five members in the case of any other Union Territory. There shall be a Chairman of the Board who shall be elected by the members from amongst themselves.
9. Under Section 11, the members of the Board shall have to be appointed by the State Government by notification in the Official Gazette from the categories of persons mentioned therein.
10. Section 12 defines the term of office of the members of the Board and provides:
'............ a member shall, notwithstanding the expiration of his term of office continue to hold office until the appointment of his successor is notified in the Official Gazette.'
10-A. Section 15 enumerates the various functions the Board shall have to discharge.
11. Under Section 10, the Board has been given the power to establish either generally or for a particular purpose or for any specified area or areas committees for the supervision of Wakfs. The constitution, functions and duties of such committees shall be determined from time to time by the Board.
12. Under Section 20, no act or proceeding of the Board shall be invalid by reason only of the existence of any vacancy amongst its members or any defect in the constitution thereof.
13. That is the scheme of the Act as forthcoming from the provisions contained in the Act.
14. The Government of Andhra Pradesh extended the term of the Wakf Board under Section 12 of the Wakf Act by its letter dated 29-9-1973. But for that extension the term of the Board would have expired by 30th September, 1973. The impugned proceedings of the Board were issued on 10-12-1973. Sri Hassan, learned counsel for the petitioner contends that the Government acted without any further authority or jurisdiction in extending the period of the Board and that is contrary to Section 12 of the Act and that proviso appended to Section 12 cannot be construed in such a way as to whittle down the main provisions of the Act and as such the Board is not legally and validly constituted and, therefore any proceedings issued by such a Board directing the reconstitution of the Committee are also afflicted with a corresponding jurisdictional infirmity.
15. As against that contention, the learned Government Pleader submitted that the proviso cannot be interpreted in the way in which it is sought to be interpreted by the learned counsel for the petitioner and even otherwise Section 20 of the Act saves the proceedings of the Board from any onslaught of invalidity.
16. As per Section 12, the members of the Board hold office for five years. The Board is an incorporated body having perpetual succession. No act or proceeding of the Board is invalid as per Section 20 by reason of the existence of any vacancy amongst its members or any defect in the constitution thereof. The proviso appended to Section 12 only provides that a member shall notwithstanding the expiration of his term of office continue to hold office until the appointment of his successor is notified in the Official Gazette.
17. The object of the Act is to secure the continuity of the Board structurally as well as functionally. The term of the members of the Board was fixed at five years under Section 12 having regard to the onerous duties that have get to be performed. With a view to securing that there should not be any hiatus in the continually of the membership of the Board, the proviso was appended to Section 12. The proviso does not say that the members of the Board can hold office for more than five years. It only provides for an eventuality of there being some delay in the appointment of the successor to which case a member can continue to hold office, notwithstanding the expiration of his term of office, till the successor's appointment is notified in the Official Gazette. This proviso is also not contrary to the object of the Act, when the object of the Act is that the Board should continue discharging its duties unhindered and unhampered by any defect in the constitution of the Board or on account of any vacancy among its members. If the proviso is not to be interpreted by the learned counsel for the petitioner, there is no dispute that the Board can be said to have been constituted validly.
18. The object of the main Sec. 12, is to define the duration of the members of the Board and the object of the proviso is to see that there should not be any hiatus in the continuation of the membership. Therefore, what is sought to be provided for by the proviso cannot be said to have been dealt with by the main section itself. The proviso cannot be said to be invalid for the reason that it seeks to whittle down the effect of the main section.
19. Therefore, in view of Section 12 and notwithstanding the fact that the term of office of the members stood expired still on account of the impact of the proviso the members shall have to hold office until the appointment of the successor is notified in the official gazette. It may also be noted in this connection that it is the State Government that is competent to appoint the members of the Board under Section 11, and it is only the State Government that issued the proceedings securing the continuation of the Board.
20. Even otherwise, under Section 20 no act or proceeding of the Board shall be invalid by reason only of the existence of any vacancy amongst the members or any defect in the constitution thereof. Whatever may be the validity of the contention raised by the petitioner with respect to Section 12, in view of Section 20 the proceedings of the Board resulting in the reconstitution of the committee cannot be invalidated and, therefore, the impugned proceedings are valid in law.
21. The learned Government Pleader raised a question of laches stating that the committee is not competent to maintain this application. That objection was not taken in the counter and the correspondence between the committee and the concerned authorities as placed before me the learned counsel for the petitioner discloses that they were permitted to continue till it is reconstituted. I do not find any merits in this submission of the learned Government Pleader.
22. For the aforesaid reasons, I am satisfied that the impugned proceedings are not invalid and they re valid. The Writ Petition is, therefore dismissed but, in the circumstances, without costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100/-.
23. Petition dismissed.