God as a juristic person

Context

  • Lord Ram a litigant in the Ayodhya case — that too against His devotees who are claiming the right to worship Him

God as a juristic person

  • A juristic person, as opposed to a “natural person” (that is, a human being), is an entity whom the law vests with a personality.
  • 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 treatment of 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 shebait or manager acting as trustee
  • Installed deities at Hindu places of worship have been treated like other real persons for the purpose of law.”However it is not all idols that will qualify for being ‘juristic person’ but only when it is consecrated and installed at a public place for the public at large.”

The rights deities have

  • Owning property
  • Paying taxes
  • Suing, and being sued

Important Note :

“Deities have property rights, but not fundamental rights or other constitutional rights.” This was upheld by Justice D Y Chandrachud in the Sabarimala judgment: “Merely because a deity has been granted limited rights as juristic persons under statutory law does not mean that the deity necessarily has constitutional rights.”

Other than Hinduism

  • A mosque has never been held as a juristic person, because it’s a place where people gather to worship; it is not an object of worship itself. Neither has a church.
  • In Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee vs Som Nath Dass and Others (2000), the SC ruled that the “Guru Granth Sahib… cannot be equated with other sacred books… Guru Granth Sahib is revered like a Guru… (and) is the very heart and spirit of gurudwara. The reverence of Guru Granth on the one hand and other sacred books on the other hand is based on different conceptual faith, belief and application.”
  • However, the court clarified that “every Guru Granth Sahib cannot be a juristic person unless it takes juristic role through its installation in a gurudwara or at such other recognised public place.”

Other Legal entities

  • Entire animal kingdom has a distinct legal persona with corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities of a living person”.
  • Uttarakhand High Court 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”. The order was stayed by the Supreme Court in July that year because it “raised several legal questions and administrative issues”.

Source: Indian Express