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What the Lord wants or what Lords want: How Ram Lalla and Lord Ayyappa are covered by the law

By Vicky Nanjappa
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    New Delhi, July 27: The Supreme Court was told that it could not interfere with the practise of prohibiting women in the age group of 10 to 50 years from entering the Sabarimala temple. The idol of Lord Ayyappa is in a state of Naisthika Brahmacharya and this was an essential part of the temple's customs, the court was also told.

    What the Lord wants or what Lords want: How Ram Lulla and Lord Ayyappa are covered by the law

    The court is hearing a petition that sought a directive to allow women into the temple. An interesting point made in this case as well as the Ayodhya matter was the right of a deity. The fact is that a deity, be it Lord Ayyappa or Ram Lalla have rights under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

    This is a well settled law and applies to all temples across the country. A deity is considered to be a person when there is a litigation. A deity as per the law is represented by the trustee of the temple.

    When the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court heard the Ayodhya matter, a point that came up was regarding the rights of an idol (Ram Lalla). In Indian jurisprudence, a deity can be represented through the trustees. This is because the property of a religious place is managed by the trust. To further break this down, the title deed of a temple is always in the name of the deity and hence the idol become a party to the suit. While adjudicating the Ayodhya case, it was said that since Ram Lalla is a minor, he had to be represented by a guardian.

    The real position of the law:

    The law laid down clearly states, that they are beings, real or imaginary, to whom the law attributes a personality by way of fiction when there is none in fact. A legal personality is an artificial creation of the law.

    The Supreme Court had made it clear in the past that a legal person is any entity other than human beings to which the law attributes a personality. The words, ' juristic person,' cannot connote the recognition of an entity to be a person in law which otherwise it is not. It is not a natural person, but an artificially created person which is to be recognised in law as such, the court had also specified.

    A juristic, legal or artificial person is any subject matter to which the law attributes a personality. This is in fact a legal creation under a general like, like the Companies Act, a specific enactment, or by a decision of the court. The law makes it clear that a legal person is a holder of rights and duties. A legal person can own or dispose of property, receive gift. A legal person can also sue or be sued in its name.

    The Supreme Court has held in several cases that a juristic person has the right to litigate any case while being represented by its managers or trustees.

    Idols as juristic persons:

    In this context one must also go into the Hindu law. As per the Hindu law, idols are juristic persons. The courts recognise a Hindu idol as a juristic entity having a judicial status, and its interests are attended to by a person who is in charge of the deity and who under law is its guardian or manager.

    In case the litigation is relating to the property, then the law says that the same belongs to the idol as a juristic person. The possession and management of the property is vested with the guardian or the manager.

    From the spiritual point of view, an idol is the embodiment of the supreme being. So far as the deity or idol stands as the representative and symbol of a particular purpose indicated by the donor, it can figure as a legal person, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court had said in a judgment.

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