The Supreme Court today ordered the Sunni Wakf Board to produce documents to attest to its claim that Shah Jahan had declared that the Taj Mahal as a property of the board. The board is currently engaged in a legal battle with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) over the ownership of the Taj Mahal. The apex court bench of CJI Dipak Misra asked the Sunni Wakf Board to submit documents signed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to support its claim.
“Who in India will believe it belongs to the wakf board? These kind of issues must not waste the time of the Supreme Court,” the court told the board and granted one week time to submit documents in this regard.
The apex court made this observation while hearing a petition filed by the ASI against the board’s 2005 order to register the white marble monument as the property of the Sunni Wakf Board. The ASI had filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2010. Shah Jahan had died in 1666, almost 18 years after he had built the Taj Mahal in the memory of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Arguing on behalf of the board, counsel VV Giri said that Shah Jahan had executed a wakf nama (inalienable charitable under the Islamic law) in favour of the board. To this, the CJI directed the board to show the original deed to the court with Shah Jahan’s signature. The court also wondered how Shah Jahan could have signed the wakf nama when he was lodged in jail. Shah Jahan was lodged in the jail at the Agra fort by his son Aurangzeb.
ASI advocate ADN Rao argued that there was no wakaf nama. The lawyer said that under the 1858 proclamation, the properties taken over by Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor, the British vested with the Queen. By the 1948 act, the buildings are taken over the Government of India.
Located on the south bank of river Yamuna, Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1648. The site was designated UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.