The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Wakf Board to show documents signed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to prove its claim of owning the Taj Mahal in Agra. The court was hearing a 2010 appeal filed by the Archaeological Survey of India over ownership of the monument.
“Who in India will believe it belongs to the wakf board,” a bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud asked the board, according to the Hindustan Times. “These kind of issues must not waste the time of the Supreme Court.” The court has given the wakf board a week to submit the signature of the emperor who died in 1666.
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.
In 2010, the Archaeological Survey of India petitioned the court against the wakf board’s decision ordering that the Taj Mahal be registered as its property. On Tuesday, the bench told the board’s counsel that the 17th century monument and other heritage structures built by the Mughals were passed on to the British at the end of the Mughal rule, and were later vested with the Indian government and managed by the Archeological Survey of India, The Indian Express reported.
The chief justice also asked the board, “How did he sign the wakfnama? He was in jail and used to view the monument while in custody.” Shah Jahan was put under house arrest in Agra Fort by his son Aurangzeb after a war of succession.
The ASI’s advocate, ADN Rao, told the court there was no such wakfnama. “Under the 1858 proclamation, the properties taken from the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, were vested with the Queen,” Rao said. “By a 1948 Act, the buildings were taken over by the Indian government.”