Ram Lalla, the litigant in the Ayodhya case
New Delhi: Allahabad High Court’s judgment in the 60-year-old Ayodhya title suit case is unique in many ways, as it not only opens a new chapter of reconciliation among the two communities but also because, through the verdict, gave 1/3rd of the land to Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman, a litigant in the case.
It might come as a surprise that Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman or Lord Ram or Ram Lalla (Ram as an infant) fought the legal battle for 21 long years before the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad HC through his "next friend" Deoki Nandan Agarwal and finally got ownership right over his birth place.
But the query is: Can a deity be treated at par with a normal human being, and can he (Lord Ram) fight a legal battle, when as the incarnation of God, he is supposed to resolve the problems of his devotees?
The Allahabad High Court’s stand on this issue has been quite interesting. The court was of the opinion that Ram Janmabhoomi- the place of birth- is a juristic person. “The deity also attained divinity like Agni, Vayu. Asthan is personified as the spirit of divine worshipped as the birthplace of Ram Lalla," the Allahabad HC said in its ruling.
In the legal parlance, the ruling of the Allahabad High Court implies that despite being a deity, Ram Lalla enjoys legal rights, albeit represented by his guardian or next friend as he is a minor.
The Indian judicial system treats deities as legal entities who could have a legal representation in courts through the trustees or managing board in charge of the temple in which they are worshipped by devotees.
Interestingly, Ram Lalla is not the first deity who has fought a legal battle. In 1983, Sri Adi Visheshwara of Kashi Vishwanath of Varanasi also fought a legal battle in the Supreme Court when the UP government enacted the Sri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983 for better management of the ancient temple.
The apex court, in Sri Adi Visheshwara of Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi, vs State of UP [1997 (4) SCC 606], acknowledged the right of a deity to move court and ruled, "Properties of endowment vest in the deity, Lord Sri Vishwanath."
The Supreme Court categorically rejected claim of the priests that they alone had the right to manage the temple on behalf of the deity and ruled that management of the temple by mahant/pandas/acharyas did not mean it became their property. It upheld the Act saying it was merely for better management of the temple.
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