Context: Lord Ram is considered a litigant in court (since he is considered as a juristic person), among the parties in the Ayodhya title suit appeals.
A juristic person
- Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee vs Som Nath Dass and Others (2000): The Supreme Court held that the very words Juristic Person connote recognition of an entity to be in law a person which otherwise is not.
- In other words, it is not an individual natural person but an artificially created person which is to be recognised to be in law as such.
- Gods, corporations, rivers, and animals, have all been treated as juristic persons by courts.
The Practice of treating deities as juristic persons:
- Started under the British: Temples owned huge land and resources, and British administrators held that the legal owner of the wealth was the deity, with a manager acting as a trustee.
- In 1887, the Bombay High Court held in the Dakor Temple case held that the Hindu idol is a judicial subject and the pious idea that it embodies is given the status of a legal person.
- Vidya Varuthi Thirtha vs Balusami Ayyar(1921): The Hindu law, the image of a deity is a ‘juristic entity’, vested with the capacity of receiving gifts and holding property”.
Is every deity qualified to be called a legal person?
However, not every deity is a legal person. This status is given to an idol only after its public consecration, or pran pratishtha.
- Yogendra Nath Naskar vs Commissioner Of Income-Tax (1969): The Supreme Court ruled that not all idols will qualify for being ‘juristic person’ but only when it is consecrated and installed at a public place for the public at large.
- Rights deities enjoy as a legal entity:
- Own property.
- Pay taxes
- Sue and being sued.
- Do not have fundamental rights or other constitutional rights (Sabarimala case).
Other legal entities:
- Entire animal kingdom: The Punjab and Haryana High Court held that the entire animal kingdom has a distinct legal persona with corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities of a living person.
- Ganga and Yamuna: The Uttarakhand High Court in 2017 declared that the Ganga and Yamuna would be legally treated as living people and enjoy all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.