The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Sunni Waqf Board to submit papers signed by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in which they were given the rights to the Taj Mahal. The Sunni Waqf Board is pursuing a legal battle against the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) for the ownership of the iconic monument.
The SC has given a week’s time to the Sunni Waqf Board to submit the papers signed by the Emperor. Shah Jahan died in 1666, 18 years after the Taj Mahal was built.
According to reports, the Sunni Waqf Board, which is the current regulatory body of the property for religious, educational and charitable purposes had passed an order in July 2005 which decreed that the monument should be registered as their property. There is a stay in that order currently. The ASI had filed a petition in the SC challenging the order.
An SC bench headed by CJI Deepak Mishra stated, “who in India will believe the Taj belongs to the Waqf Board? These kinds of issues should not waste the time of the Supreme Court.”
The Sunni Waqf Board had claimed in court that the sole owner of the Taj Mahal was with Emperor Shah Jahan, who, in a ‘waqfnama’, passed the property on to them. Senior Advocate VV Giri, who represented the board, claimed that the late Emperor executed a ‘waqfnama’ in favour of the board which grants them the ownership. Upon this, the bench reportedly stated, “then show us the original deed executed by Shah Jahan. Show us his signature.” The bench has granted a week’s time to the Waqf Board to submit the papers.
CJI Mishra also had certain questions for the Waqf Board. He asked that Shah Jahan was put under custody and used to view the Taj Mahal through a window and how did he sign the Waqfnama. The bench also remarked that the Taj Mahal and all other heritage monuments were passed on to the British after the end of the Mughal rule. From them, all the properties were vested to the government of India after the independence and all heritage monuments have been managed by the ASI.
Advocate ADN Rao, who appeared for the ASI claimed that there is no ‘waqfnama’ and after the end of Mughal rule, under the 1858 proclamation, all Mughal properties were taken over by the British and they were handed over to the Indian government under 1948 Act.
The Sunni Waqf Board had given the order in 2005 on a petition filed by an individual named Mohammad Irfan Bedar. Bedar had moved to the Allahabad High Court after the board delayed declaring order on his 1998 petition. On the Allahabad High Court’s order, the Waqf Board had passed decision and claimed ownership of the Taj Mahal. The ASI had moved to the SC in August 2005 and got a stay on the order.
The three-membered Supreme Court bench comprised of CJI Deepak Mishra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AM Khanwalikar.