NEW DELHI, May 23 (PTI): The Central Information Commission has ordered the office of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to disclose details of salaries paid to imams in Delhi mosques not maintained by the Delhi Waqf Board within 20 days of receipt of its order and threatened to use its power to summon officials in case of non-compliance.
“Next hearing on the matter is scheduled for 3 pm on July 07, 2023, to ensure compliance with this order. If necessary, the Commission may use its powers available under section 18(3)(e) to summon the relevant parties and ensure complete compliance with the CIC verdict dated November 25, 2022,” stated Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar.
In his order dated November 25, 2022, Mahurkar instructed Delhi Waqf Board and Delhi Revenue Department to disclose the information requested by activist Subhash Agrawal.
Agrawal had sought to know the total number of mosques in the national capital where imams (clerics) receive salaries, the total amount incurred, annual expenditure, and details of the competent authority responsible for the payments.
“The CM Office is hereby directed to ensure that CIC-verdict dated 25.11.2022 is complied with by all concerned public authorities under the Government of NCT Delhi within 20 days of the receipt of this order,” the Information Commissioner said in his latest order.
Through his right to information (RTI) application, Agrawal also asked if such salaries are being paid to priests of Hindu temples as well.
The offices of the LG and the chief minister did not respond to the RTI application, but the office of the chief secretary transferred it to the Department of Revenue and Delhi Waqf Board.
The Supreme Court in 1993, on a petition from the All India Imam Organisation, had directed the Waqf Board to give remuneration to imams in mosques managed by it.
Agrawal had filed a complaint with the Commission, alleging non-compliance with the CIC order dated November 25, 2022 by the relevant authorities.
In the order, Mahurkar had stated that the 1993 Supreme Court ruling allowing remuneration to imams in mosques was in “violation of the Constitution” and had set a “wrong precedent,” resulting in unnecessary political debates and social discord.
In his latest order on the non-compliance issue, Mahurkar emphasised that it was a “very serious matter of withholding legitimate information.”
He directed Delhi Waqf Board CPIO Syed Haider Al to provide the file notations until the date of the RTI application – February 16, 2022.
“The Commission further instructs that the data regarding salaries paid to imams and others in Delhi mosques under the control of DWB (together with file notations) should be provided up to February 16, 2022, the date of the RTI application, instead of only up to April 25, 2019, within 15 days of receiving this order,” he added.
He also ordered the Board to transfer the application to the appropriate public authority responsible for providing salaries to imams and helpers in Delhi mosques not under the control of DWB within 15 days.
Furthermore, he directed the Board to compensate Agrawal with Rs 25,000 for the mental distress, loss of time, and resources incurred due to the withholding of information.
The order to the chief minister’s office was issued after representatives of the Department of Revenue and CM office expressed lack of knowledge about the public authority responsible for paying salaries to imams in Delhi mosques not maintained by the Board.
“As representatives from both the CM office and the Department of Revenue expressed their lack of knowledge about the public authority responsible for providing salaries to imams and others in Delhi mosques not under the control of DWB during the CIC hearing, the Commission instructs the CPIO at the CM Office to bring this matter to the attention of the chief minister of Delhi.
“News reports presented as evidence clearly indicate that the chief minister of Delhi made an announcement regarding the payment of salaries to imams and others in Delhi mosques not under the control of DWB,” Mahurkar stated.
He also instructed his registry to request information from the principal secretary to the union law minister regarding any action taken on the recommendations provided in the CIC verdict.