Justice g r swaminathan order —Tamil Nadu Waqf Board elections: ‘Senior Muslim advocate’ doesn’t mean ‘designated senior advocate,’ Madras high court clarifies

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Tamil Nadu Waqf Board elections: ‘Senior Muslim advocate’ doesn’t mean ‘designated senior advocate,’ Madras high court clarifies
Kaushik Kannan | Aug 1, 2020, 18:15 IST

MADURAI: The Madras high court has observed that the words ‘any senior Muslim advocate’ as per provisions of the Waqf Act do not refer to designated senior Muslim advocate. Instead, they refer to senior among Muslim advocates for their nomination in Tamil Nadu Waqf Board.
The court was hearing a petition filed by M Imam Hussain, a practising advocate, who sought to quash notification issued by the state government for Tamil Nadu Waqf Board and sought to nominate designated senior Muslim advocates to the board in terms of proviso to Section 14(1)(b)(iii) of the Waqf Act.

As per the provision, the composition of the board should comprise two Muslim members of the Bar Council of the concerned state. If there are no Muslim member of the Bar Council, the state government may nominate any senior Muslim advocate from the state.

Justice G R Swaminathan observed, “The proviso relied on by the petitioner contains the expression ‘any senior Muslim advocate’. The word ‘advocate’ is qualified by the adjective ‘Muslim’.
This adjective stands between the words ‘senior’ and ‘advocate’. The legislature has not used the expression ‘Muslim senior advocate’. Courts have to give effect to legislative intent and not play the game of scrabble.”
Therefore, it only means the senior among the Muslim advocates and it cannot be confined to the Muslim advocates designated as senior advocates under Advocates Act, 1961, observed the judge. Hence, the judge dismissed the petition.
The state government superseded the board as per GO dated September 18, 2019, since the number of elected members of the board became less than the nominated members. Since the period of continuous supersession shall not exceed more than a year, election notification dated July 15 was issued by the government under Rule 8 of the Tamil Nadu Waqf Board (Conduct of Election for Members) Rules, 1997.

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