“Who in India will believe it belongs to Wakf Board? These kind of issues must not waste the time of the Supreme Court court”.
This was the retort from a three-judge bench Tuesday when a plea by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), challenging the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Wakf Board’s July, 2005, decision to declare Taj Mahal a Wakf Property came up before it.
The bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud told the board’s counsel that the 17th century monument and other heritage structures built by the Mughals had passed on to the British after the Mughal rule, came to be vested with the government of India after Independence and were being managed by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).
The counsel replied that none other than Emperor Shah Jahan himself had declared it a Wakf.
The bench then insisted that the board show it the original deed executed by Shah Jahan. “Show us the signature”, said the CJI as the counsel sought more time to produce relevant documents. The court granted the prayer.
The board’s decision to declare Taj Mahal a Wakf had come on a direction from Allahabad High Court in a petition filed by one Mohammad Irfan Bedar who contended that the Taj was a Wakf property and that he should be declared its caretaker.
Bedar had approached the board in 1998, requesting it to register Taj Mahal as a Wakf property.
As a decision got delayed, he moved the Allahabad High Court, which after hearing him, asked him to approach the board afresh.
Hearing his plea, the board issued notice to the ASI, which opposed the prayer for declaring Taj Mahal a Wakf property and contended that the monument was its property. But the board went ahead and ordered that the monument be registered as a Wakf property.