Monday, October 11

Guru Granth Sahib too is a 'juristic person'

There are precedents of courts according Hindu deities the status of a person in law. Jatinder Preet writing in The Sunday Guardian recalls, Guru Granth Sahib too was held 'a juristic person' by the Supreme Court.
While there have been sharp reactions to Ayodhya verdict over it holding Ram a juristic person, it would be instructive to recall that Supreme Court had held Sri Guru Granth Sahib too a juristic person in 2000.
The SC elaborated in the judgment “the very words ‘Juristic Person’ connote recognition of an entity to be in law a person which otherwise it is not. In other words, it is not an individual natural person but an artificially created person which is to be recognized in law as such.”
Interestingly the predominant Sikh concern at that time was ‘Has Guru Granth Sahib been equated with Hindu idol or deity?’ or ‘Has it made the Holy Sikh scripture subject to the jurisdiction of worldly courts?’
Sikhs consider Guru Granth Sahib, a compilation of hymns by Sikh Gurus and other saints of the time, not only a sacred book but a living guru. Upholding this in a judgment entitled Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Amritsar versus Som Nath Dass and others delivered on March 29, 2000, the Supreme Court of India held that Sri Guru Granth Sahib is indeed a juristic person.
A section of Sikh community wary of threats to its separate identity from those who called Sikhism a part of Hinduism were apprehensive of the judgment too. They wondered whether the judgment made the Holy Sikh scripture subject to the jurisdiction of worldly courts and facilitated to drag its name irreverently before the courts just like ordinary property holders or is it appropriate to call Guru Granth Sahib a person or a juristic person instead of Guru?
While concerns were being raised in many Sikh quarters on its implications Kashmir Singh, an eminent legal expert called it a landmark and historic judgment of far-reaching consequences and great significance. According to him, the holy scripture of Sikhs was accorded the status of a juristic person for the first time while asserting that Hindu Idols and Maths have always been recognized to be juristic persons in Hindu Law. He cited a Privy Council ruling of 1925 that said “a Hindu Idol is, according to long established authority founded upon the religious custom of Hindus, and recognition thereof by the courts of law, a juristic entity.”

Mosque is ‘not’ a juristic person
Incidentally another case which can be cited as a precedent in the Ayodhya case also involved SGPC. In the case dating back to 1935 the issue of mosque as a juristic person had come up. It involved claims over a mosque known as Masjid Shahid Ganj and its adjacent land over which a Gurdwara had been built in Lahore. The mosque existed in the place since 1722 but on occupation of Lahore in 1762, the Sikhs took over the possession and built a Gurdwara. Following upholding of their claims by Sikh Gurdwaras Tribunal the mosque was demolished in July 1935 by Sikhs leading to riots. A suit was filed in October 1935 in the Court of District Judge Lahore against the SGPC which was dismissed. The case went up to Privy Council that held that a mosque is not a juristic person. According to Kashmir Singh the contention that ‘a Hindu idol is a juristic person and on the same principle a mosque as an institution should be considered as a juristic person’ was rejected. It was held that there is no analogy between the position in law of a building dedicated as a place of prayer for Muslims and the individual deities of the Hindu religion.

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