The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has clarified that the expression senior Muslim advocate is not confined to a designated senior counsel for the purpose of nomination to the Tamil Nadu Waqf Board.
Justice G.R. Swaminathan observed that the expression any senior Muslim advocate occurring in the proviso to Section 14 (1)(b)(iii) of the Waqf Act was not confined to the designated senior counsel.
It also includes those Muslim advocates who are 45 years of age and who are in practice for not less than 10 years preceding the date of consideration for nomination, the judge said and dismissed a petition that sought to quash a government notification.
Since the number of elected members to the Waqf Board became less than the nominated members of the Board, the government superseded the Board. However, the superseding can last for a period not exceeding six months and can be extended by another six months.
But the period of continuous supersession shall not exceed for more than a year. As the extended period was about to expire, a notification was issued by the Election Authority to the Government Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Department.
This notification was challenged by Advocate M. Imam Hussain who said that instead of choosing senior counsel, the government has chosen to treat ex-members of the Bar council of Tamil Nadu as the electoral college.
As per the Waqf Act, the composition of the Board includes two Muslim members of the Bar council of the State. If there is no Muslim member of the Bar, the State government can nominate any senior Muslim advocate from the State.
The proviso contains the expression any Senior Muslim Advocate. The word advocate is qualified by the adjective Muslim and stands in between senior and advocate. The legislature has not used the term Muslim Senior Advocate.
It can therefore only mean the senior among the Muslim advocates and cannot be confined to the Muslim advocates designated as senior advocates under the Advocates Act, 1961, the judge said.