‘Lord’ came to court for ‘Justice’
When a person becomes hopeless & depressed in his life, he usually seeks shelter in the supreme power, the almighty. But when that almighty gets in trouble he comes to court..ahem..quite literally. I am referring to those cases which involve GOD as the litigant. I will give you a glimpse into such interesting suits but first let’s start with the recent one, The Padmanabhaswamy case.
The Padmanabhaswamy case
The padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala is one of the richest shrine in the world. The historical temple is dedicated to lord Padmanabhaya, an incarnation of lord Vishnu. This temple has six underground chambers, known as Vault A, Vault B, Vault C, Vault D, Vault E and Vault F. These vaults are full of royal treasure worth in billions. Apart from the treasure the shrine gets crores in donation every year from devotees around the world. Understandably controlling the administration of the temple was the cause of the dispute. On July 13, reversing the Kerala High Court judgement, the Supreme Court of India upheld the rights of the former royal family to run the administration of the 8th century built temple. In 2011, Kerala High Court had given the administration power to the state government.
Originally the temple was maintained by the Travancore Royal Family. The tiff started over the maintenance and legal rights of the historic temple after the death of the last ruler Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, in 1991. There had been a critical question on whether his younger brother Utradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma can control and manage the Padmanabhaswamy Temple administration as the “ruler of Travancore”.
By carefully examining the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950, the Supreme Court decided to allow the Travancore royal family to claim ownership and manage the ancient Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. And along with the controlling rights, the Apex Court has also passed the ball in the court of the royal family to decide whether the mysterious ‘vault B’ be open or not. However, the royal family had argued against the opening of the secret vault as they claim it would bring misfortune to the entire state.
The Ayodhya case
After decades of litigation and political-nonpolitical, religious movements, the famous Ram Janmabhoomi matter dispute was finally settled by the Supreme Court of India. On 9 November 2019, a five member bench headed by the then CJI Ranjan Gogoai had also passed the historical verdict on the matter. The apex court upheld the title right of Ram Lalla, the presiding deity, over the disputed 2.77 acre land in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The court had also directed the government to allocate a separate 5 acre land for the construction of a mosque.
The Sabrimala verdict
The Sabarimala Temple, considered the abode of Lord Ayyappa, is located in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Kerala. According to the centuries old custom the temple does not allow the entry of women in their ‘menstruating years’ (between the age of 10 to 50). In 2006, a PIL was filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association before the Supreme Court, challenging the custom. The Association argued that the custom violates the rights to equality under Article 14 and freedom of religion under Article 25 of female worshippers.
On 28th September 2018, a five member bench of the Apex Court delivered the controversial judgement on the Sabrimala Temple. The 4:1 majority held that the custom of not giving entry to the Shrine of Lord Ayappa is unconstitutional. Though the only female judge in the bench, Justice Indu Malhotra dissented with the verdict.
The Constitution bench also suggested the larger bench to look into pending cases in relation to the entry of Muslim women to a dargah/mosque; Parsi women married to non-Parsis and their entry to a fire temple; and issues relating to female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community. The apex court observed that a common policy needs to be formulated to deal with recurring cases related to similar issues of faith and religion.
Challenging the judgment a review petition is still pending in the court.