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Why SC rejected Nirmohi Akhara’s claims on shebait rights

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Mahant Dharam Das

While taking up the issue of Nirmohi Akhara and shebait rights, the Supreme Court observed that the course of dealing with the maintainability of Suit No. 5 hinged on the question whether Nirmohi Akhara was a shebait, and whether it had acted in a manner pre-judicial to the interests of the idol.

The Supreme Court observed that where there exists an express deed of dedication identifying the shebait, the position in law with respect to who can sue on behalf of an idol is as follows:

I) The right to sue vests exclusively in the lawfully appointed shebait

II) Where the shebait acts in a manner negligent or hostile to the interests of the idol through express action or inaction, any person who is interested in the endowment may institute a suit on behalf of the idol

III) The exact nature of the interest possessed by the next friend, and whether the next friend is bona fide are matters of substantive law and that if the same is contested, it must be adjudicated upon by the court

The Supreme Court noted the conditional modification of the position of Nirmohi Akhara opposing the maintainability of the suit filed by the idol through the next friend provided that Nirmohi Akhara is independently allowed to maintain its status as shebait, and stated that such a position is untenable in a court of law.

Clearly noting the contradiction, it was observed that since Nirmohi Akhara had always maintained that it was the shebait to the idol, which if accepted by the court of law, would mean that it alone had the right to sue, to the exclusion of the next friend, i.e., in Suit No.5. The Suit No.5 could therefore only stand if the court concluded that Nirmohi Akhara had acted contrary to the interests of the idol.

In the absence of an express deed of dedication in the present case, the Nirmohi Akhara had claimed de facto shebaitship on the basis of its long standing presence at the disputed site.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court pointed out that the fact that Suit No.5 was instituted by the next friend 30 years after the suit instituted by Nirmohi Akhara, and both suits were adjudicated together clearly showed there was no determination made about the shebaitship of Nirmohi Akhara yet at that time.

Clarifying the position of a de facto shebait, as claimed by Nirmohi Akhara, the Supreme Court observed that a single or stray act of management does not vest a person with the rights of a de facto shebait and that such person must demonstrate long, uninterrupted and exclusive possession and management of the property in question.

In this regard, the Supreme Court observed that although Nirmohi Akhara denied the incidents of December 22/23, 1949 (when late Baba Abhiram Das had placed idols in the inner sanctum as per records and proceedings) at the disputed structure, the claim of Nirmohi Akhara that it was in possession of the inner courtyard has already been rejected on the basis of the evidence on record.

The Supreme Court further noted that the Nirmohi Akhara had failed to prove that at the material time, the disputed structure was a temple which was in its possession and that no such incident had taken place on December 22/23, 1949.

Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that in the absence of exclusive possession of the inner courtyard, the claim of the Nirmohi Akhara that it was managing the inner courtyard as shebait does not arise.

(The writer was a strategic counsel to the heads of the parent bodies of both Nirwani and Nirmohi Akharas in the resolution of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute. He can be contacted at [email protected])

India

Atal statue installed in Lucknow, to be unveiled on Dec 25

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Lucknow: A 25-ft bronze statue of former prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was installed at the Lok Bhawan building here and is expected to be formally unveiled on December 25, his birth anniversary.

The statue was installed at the Bhawan on Monday night.

According to sources, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to unveil the statue.

Sources said that the Prime Minister’s Office was yet to confirm Modi’s availability on December 25.

Sculpted by famous sculptor Raj Kumar Pandit of Jaipur, it statue is going to be the tallest statue in the state.

Vajpayee’s life-size statue was commissioned on March 9, 2019 to Jaipur’s Works for Artist Foundry. It has been mounted on an eight feet high base, prepared by the Uttar Pradesh Rajkiya Nirman Nigam Limited.

The statue has come up at the spot where a cut-out of Vajpayee, overlooking the imposing entrance to the Lok Bhawan, was symbolically placed.

Vajpayee represented Lucknow in the Lok Sabha for a record five consecutive terms, which also included his three stints as Prime Minister.

Yogi Adityanath has taken a keen personal interest in the construction of the Vajpayee statue.

Though the exact estimate was not known, officials said that the contract for the Vajpayee statue was given for Rs 89.6 lakh.

Last year, a 12.5 ft bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda, made by Maharashtra’s Uttam Pacharne, was unveiled at the Raj Bhawan by the then governor Ram Naik and the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Four more statues — all 12.5 ft high — that are nearly ready and are being given finishing touches include those of Adityanath’s revered gurus Mahant Avaidyanath and Mahant Digvijayanath, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna and also Bhartendu Harish Chandra — widely regarded as the father of modern Hindi literature and Hindi theatre.

While Bhartendu Harish Chandra’s statue would be installed at the Bhartendu Natya Akademi in Gomti Magar, the place and positioning of Bahuguna’s statue as well as those of spiritual gurus from Gorakhnath Math, of which Adityanath is the head priest, are yet to be decided.

“Unlike in previous governments when statues were mostly sanctioned on political lines, the Adityanath government is sanctioning statues of leaders which inspire our young generation,” said Uttar Pradesh Minister Ashutosh Tandon.

In the Bahujan Samaj Party regime, statues of almost all Dalit icons were installed in various places in the state capital while Akhilesh Yadav, in his regime installed statues of Janeshwar Misra and Ram Manohar Lohia.


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Citizenship Bill ‘patently unconstitutional,’ battle ground to shift to Supreme Court: Chidambaram

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p chidambaram

New Delhi, Dec 10: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram described the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as “patently unconstitutional” on Tuesday and said with its passage in Parliament, the battleground will shift to the Supreme Court.

“CAB is unconstitutional. Parliament passes a Bill that is patently unconstitutional and the battle ground shifts to the Supreme Court. Elected Parliamentarians are abdicating their responsibilities in favour of lawyers and judges!,” Chidambaram said in a tweet.

“That is the price we pay for giving a party a brute majority that it uses to trample over the wishes of the states and the people,” the former Union minister said in another tweet.

According to the proposed legislation, members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan by December 31, 2014 and faced religious persecution in those countries, will not be treated as illegal immigrants and given the Indian citizenship.

P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) December 10, 2019
The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha with 311 members favouring it, 80 voting against it and zero abstentions, after a heated debate.

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BHU professor attacked for supporting Muslim colleague

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Banaras Hindu University, BHU

Varanasi: A Sanskrit professor at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) here has been allegedly attacked by students for supporting his Muslim colleague, Feroz Khan, whose appointment to the department as assistant professor had sent students on protests since the past one month.

The Dalit professor is a senior faculty member in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan (SVDV) department where Khan has been appointed.

“I was sitting in a classroom when some students barged in and started abusing me in foul language. They asked me to stop supporting a Muslim’s appointment to the faculty.

“I felt unsafe and came out. Some of the students then hurled stones at me and later caught up with me and shoved and pushed me. I could escape because a stranger gave me a lift on his scooter,” Professor Shanti Lal Salvi told reporters here, following the Monday’s incident.

Salvi alleged a colleague had instigated the students but would not name him before the media.

“I have complained to Vice-Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar against a professor of the department and some students,” he said.

A student, who was a part of the group that had accosted Salvi, said they had only asked the professor to stop supporting Khan and never attacked him.

Some students of the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Sankay department have been protesting Khan’s appointment on the ground that a Muslim cannot teach Hindu religious texts, which the department’s syllabus includes.

There has been speculation that Khan may be shifted to the department of Samhita and Sanskrit, part of the university’s faculty of Ayurveda, or the Sanskrit department of the arts faculty as a compromise.

He has appeared in interviews held by the two departments, on November 29 and on December 4.

Meanwhile, no classes have been held in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan department since November 8, the day after Khan’s appointment.

Chief proctor O.P. Rai met the student protesters on Monday and said Khan’s appointment would soon be discussed at the executive council of the university.

The semester examinations have also been postponed due to protests. “The next date of the semester examination in the department will be announced soon,” the proctor told reporters.

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