PSC will not make Waqf appointments. CM agrees to amend Waqf-PSC Act

Pinarayi Vijayan. Design: Onmanorama

Thiruvananthapuram: MM Mani's was not the only withdrawal that happened in the Assembly on Wednesday. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, too, announced that his government would not operationalise the controversial Kerala PSC (Additional Functions As Respects the Services Under the Waqf Board) Act, 2021, which sought to make the Kerala Public Service Commission responsible for recruitments to the Waqf Board as well.

"The government will soon initiate measures to bring in an amendment to the Act," the Chief Minister said in the Assembly. He said the new recruitment procedure to waqf posts would be drawn up in the amendment. When the Act was passed last November, the government had said that the recommendation to hand over the recruitments to the PSC was mooted by the Waqf Board itself.

The Act had stoked deep resentment in the Muslim community. While the Muslim League wanted to mount an aggressive campaign against the Act, even wanting to use mosque pulpits to whip up anger against the government, Samastha Kerala Jem-iyyathul Ulama, the largest body of Sunni scholars in Kerala and an organisation deeply linked to the League, had warned the League against the use of masjids for political ends.

The Chief Minister used this rift to negotiate a compromise with Samastha president Jifri Muthukkoya Thangal. Vijayan ignored the Muslim League and called a meeting of Samastha leaders in December 2021.

The Chief Minister told the meeting the government was in no hurry to implement the Act. However, he stopped short of promising a withdrawal of the Act but said he was willing to allay all their concerns. The Samastha, therefore, was not keen on taking on the Chief Minister. The speculation that the Samastha was getting closer to the CPM prompted the Muslim League to stage a massive show of strength in Kozhiode on December 9 last year.

The main concern of the Samastha, and the League, was that if the Act was implemented the non-faithful could find themselves in a position to control the affairs of the Waqf Board, which was run on the endowments made by the members of the community. They had pointed out that officials appointed to handle Waqf properties endowed in the name of God should be religious believers.

Any move to implement the Act would have invited the srath of the Muslim community. Though the Law Department had issued a notification on November 14 last year, follow up measures, including the drawing up of rules by the Waqf Board, was frozen. Now, nearly nine months after the Act was passed and bowing to the sustained opposition of major Muslim religious and political organistions, the Chief Minister has declared that the Act would be amended.

However, the Chief Minister was unwilling to grant the League an easy political victory. He said on Wednesday that none of the Muslim League members who spoke during the discussion on the Waqf-PSC Act had raised any major concerns. "Their only concern was whether the jobs of existing employees would be protected. We had assured them that these temporary employees would be regularised," the Chief Minister said.

This apparently angered the League MLAs, all of them saying that their speakers had indeed raised all the relevant issues during the discussion.

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