At Srinagar’s commercial Hubs, Wakf Property Users Pay Peanuts as Rent

KL NEWS NETWORK
SRINAGAR

The Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Wakf property despite located at prime commercial locations have not been able to generate the proportionate revenue, courtesy the insignificant rentals and crores pending as rents with the users.

The Wakf Board has thousands of shops within Srinagar Municipal limits. But the Wakf property has been given to people on favouritism at peanuts without any criteria or following any law.

Taj Hotel, located at the commercial hub of the Valley, has 50 rooms, in two floors and these rooms have been for decades rented for 3 lakh per year at a monthly rate of Rs 25000.

One wonders that how can 50 rooms in the prime location of summer capital be rented at such cheap rates.

Vice Chairman Wakf Board, Peer Mohammad Hussain told KNS that the Taj Hotel has 49 rooms, a kitchen and two halls that have been leased out in 2001 to a user.

“As per new Wakf Board Act of 2003, the fixation of rent was evaluated scientifically as per the market rates. So, in 2005, the rent of Taj Hotel was fixed as Rs 1,06,947 per month. Thus, the hotel user had to pay rent as per it. But he did not,” he said.

The 2003 Act and new rent evaluation were not implemented due to political interference and the lobbying of these property users against it.

“The hotel user is paying just 3 lakh rupees for a year which was decided in closed doors through ‘negotiations’ between the user and some Wakf officials several years ago,” Hussain said.

“And, surprisingly, today the tenant says that most of the rooms are useless. This year, we have given the tenant a notice to clear all balance and renew the rent as per new market rate,” he said.

The Board served a notice to the user in November last year, saying that the fair license fee for the said premises according to the present market rate is assessed/ evaluated @ 52.50 for the first floor and 39.38 for the second floor per square foot per month.

“Now, therefore, you are asked to execute fresh license deed within a period of one month from this notice as per the new rates…failing which you shall be liable to vacate the premises, for which no further notice shall be given,” reads the notice of the Wakf.

Explaining the procedure of using of Wakf property, Hussain said that it can either be leased out or a license can be issued to a user.

While a license to user, valid for just 11 months, is the competence of VC, the lease is done by the Board.

“License is valid for 11 months after which it is to be renewed or new user can be given the license. The lease is valid for five years, and then if renewed by the user, it is doubled to 10 years. And ultimately for 40 years and not more than that,” the VC explains.

The VC said that in the case of Taj Hotel, the agreement of the lease is not registered and no period of lease or the term of the lease has been described, accordingly, it is in contravention of the law.

He said that as per the Wakf Board Act of 2003, all licenses and leases have become ineffective.

“So the users are occupying the property illegally and are unauthorised to use the shops and hotels. Still we are giving the users an opportunity to become legal users as per the new Act,” he said.

The outstanding rent with the Wakf property users was 5 Crore rupees, from which about 1 Crore has been paid by the users to the board that too when they were served repeated notices.

Like Taj Hotel, the Wakf Board has served similar notices to all the users. “But so far no user has come forward even after the notices. They are considering as booty when it is our religious property, which we can use to create assets for public,” Hussain said.

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