what-legal-rights-do-deities-enjoy

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. 

Background

The Practice of treating deities as juristic persons: 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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: 
  1. Own property. 
  2. Pay taxes 
  3. Sue and being sued. 
  4. 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.