Central Information Commissioner (CIC), Uday Mahurkar recently remarked that honorariums given to imams and helpers in Delhi mosques by the state government are encouraging “pan-Islamist tendencies”.
CIC Mahurkar asked if imams are being paid by the state government from tax money, are the temples, churches, gurudwaras and other religious holdings also getting the same monetary benefits.
The Wire in a report accessed an RTI (Right to Information) plea filed by activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal with the Delhi government’s revenue department. In his RTI, Agarwal asked for information regarding the remuneration, honorariums or monetary benefits of imams in Delhi Waqf Board mosques.
The RTI was filed after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government announced to increase in the salaries of imams and other staff members of the Delhi Waqf Board in 2019. An Imam’s salary was increased from Rs 10,000/month to Rs18,000/month and helpers’ salary was increased from Rs 9,000/month to Rs 16,000/month.
However, when the RTI reply came back, Agarwal was not satisfied with the answers provided by the revenue department. It then sought answers from the First Appellate Authority (FAA), and when that did not satisfy Agarwal either, he filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission (CIC).
During the hearing of the second appeal, Agarwal submitted that he was fed incomplete information, that too after a delay of approximately nine months and after much “dithering.”
On November 25, Information Commissioner Makurkar passed an order observing that honorarium to the imams and helpers of the Delhi Waqf Board increased four times since 2014. The honorarium rose from Rs 2.68 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9.62 crore in 2020-21.
Recalling the All India Imam Organisation And … versus Union Of India And Others on May 13, 1993, that allows special financial benefits from the public treasury to only imams and muezzins in the mosques, Information Commissioner Makurkar observed the verdict was against the Constitution of India where taxpayers’ money was used in favour of a particular religion.
Mahurkar was very vocal about his views on Muslims and policies that benefit them. He said, “It is necessary to note here that it was the policy of giving special benefits to the Muslim community before 1947 that played a key role in encouraging pan-Islamic and fissiparous tendencies in a section of Muslims ultimately leading to the nation’s partition. So giving salaries to Imams and others only in mosques amounts to not just betraying the Hindu community and members of other non-Muslim minority religions but also encouraging pan-Islamist tendencies amongst a section of Indian Muslims which are already visible.”
Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar was appointed as the Chief Information Commissioner in 2020 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mahurkar was a former senior deputy editor with India Today. His appointment created strong opposition, particularly from Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary who condemned the Centre’s decision to overlook a more senior officer Vanaja N Sarna for the post.
Mahurkar is believed to be a staunch supporter of the principles and ideology of the right-wing organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).