The Taj Mahal is owned by the Almighty and the Sunni Waqf Board won’t stake claim to its ownership, but it must be listed as Wakf property for practical purposes, the Supreme Court was told on Tuesday.
Asking senior counsel A D N Rao, appearing for the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), to take instructions, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said once the Board pressed its right over the monument then it has to adjudicate the issue.
“Once you have registered the monument as a Wakf property, your statement that you will not be staking claim will not help,” said the bench and directed the next hearing on 27 July.
In its hearing on 11 April, the apex court asked the Wakf Board to produce an original title document bearing the signatures of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to prove its claim.
Telling the court that the Taj Mahal is owned by the almighty, the Sunni Wakf Board said it has no document from the Mughal rulers or their descendents bestowing the 17th century monument in its favour.
The Board said the monument belonged to it as its members have been continuously performing Urs on the death anniversary of Emperor Shah Jahan and Friday Namaz at the Masjid located in the compound of the Taj Mahal.
Such a course would create problems, observed the bench. In an obvious reference to a descendant of Mughal empire, the Board told the court that no human can lay claim to the magnificent monument.
Y H Tucy, who claims to be the great grandson of last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, has said the Taj Mahal is the nation’s property and no one can claim right over it. “Remember Emperor Shah Jahan has not written a deed in favour of Waqf,” Tucy had said earlier.
The Archaeological Survey of India moved the top court in August 2005 after the Wakf Board registered the Taj as Wakf property. The top court then issued notices on ASI’s plea and stayed the board’s move and the matter is pending since then.
A part of Fatehpur Sikri ~ the fort near Agra built by Emperor Akbar ~ is registered as Wakf property, where the mosque exists, and the adjourning area is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), said the Sunni Waqf board.
The board urged the Archeological body to consider whether the Taj Mahal can be registered as its property, only for maintenance.
ASI opposed it, concerned that signing off ownership of the Taj Mahal would create other problems and spur similar claims for the Red Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.