Located on the south bank of river Yamuna, Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1648. The site was designated UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Sunni Waqf Board to present papers signed by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan in a week’s time after they claimed that Taj Mahal is owned by the king in the ownership battle case against the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).
Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud
The bench reminded the board that the 17th-century monument and other heritage structures built by the Mughals had passed on to the British. Later, it came to be vested with the government of India after Independence and was being managed by the ASI.
Factual Matter Of The Case
The board is engaged in a legal battle with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) over the ownership of the Taj Mahal.
Today, the Apex Court has made an observation while hearing a petition filed by the ASI against the board’s 2005 order to register the white marble monument as the property of the Sunni Wakf Board.
The ASI in 2010 had petitioned the court against the Wakf board’s July 2005 decision ordering that the Taj be registered as the latter’s property. There is a stay on the order.
Shah Jahan had died in 1666, almost 18 years after he had built the Taj Mahal in the memory of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Claims By The Parties Counsel
Counsel V V Giri has been arguing on behalf of the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Wakf Board and he has clearly stated that Shah Jahan had executed a wakf nama (inalienable charitable under the Islamic law) in favour of the board. He also said that Shah Jahan had himself declared the monument a waqf – an endowment of land by a Muslim for religious, educational or charitable purposes – and had executed a waqfnama in favour of the board.
To this, the CJI directed the board to show the original deed to the court with Shah Jahan’s signature. The court also wondered how Shah Jahan could have signed the wakf nama when he was lodged in jail. Shah Jahan was lodged in the jail at the Agra fort by his son Aurangzeb.
While, on the other hand, ASI advocate ADN Rao argued that there was no Wakaf nama. The lawyer said that “Under the 1858 proclamation, the properties taken over from the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, by the British vested with the Queen. By the 1948 act, the buildings were taken over by the Indian government.”
The Supreme Court has ordered the Sunni Wakf Board to produce documents to attest to its claim that Shah Jahan had declared that the Taj Mahal as a property of the board.
“Who in India will believe it belongs to the Wakf board? These kinds of issues must not waste the time of the Supreme Court.”
The CJI asked the board:
“How did he (Shah Jahan) sign waqf nama? He was in jail and used to view the monument while in custody.”
The apex court bench of CJI Dipak Misra asked the Sunni Wakf Board to submit documents signed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to support its claim.
The court has given a week’s time to the board to produce the signatures of the Mughal emperor who died in 1666. READ HERE