In India, Gods, rivers, and animals can pay taxes, hold property, sue, and get sued— and that’s an important factor in the Ayodhya case
- In March, 2017, the Uttarakhand High Court declared that rivers, Ganga and Yamuna, would be legally treated as “living people,” and enjoy “all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person”.
- However, in September 2018, Justice Chandrachud of India’s Supreme Court said that while a deity or an idol can own property and have other legal rights, but it cannot granted fundamental rights.
- So in the case between those who want a temple for Lord Rama in Ayodhya and those who want to restore a demolished mosque, one of the parties to the case is Lord Rama himself.
A juristic person, as opposed to a “natural person” (that is, a human being), is an entity whom the law vests with a personality.
The practice began under the British administration of India. The British administrators held that the legal owner of a temple’s land and wealth was the deity, with a shebait or manager acting as trustee. Much like a corporation and its directors.
However, one cannot place a deity and bestow it with wealth and property. For a deity to be considered a legal entity only “when it is consecrated and installed at a public place for the public at large,” according to the judgement in the Yogendra Nath Naskar vs Commissioner Of Income-Tax (1969) case. This entails a Hindu ritual called the ‘prana pratishta’ after which the deity is believed to have come alive.
However, a mosque, a church or a gurdwara cannot be considered as juristic entities because these are places where people gather to worship and are not objects of worship themselves, according to a Supreme Court verdict in 2000.