New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board to produce documents that bear the signature of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to prove its claim of ownership on the Taj Mahal.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, the apex court on Tuesday gave the board a week's time to produce signature of emperor Shah Jahan, who died under house arrest in the Agra Fort almost 18 years after building the monument in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
In 2010, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had petitioned the court against the waqf board’s July 2005 decision ordering that the Taj be registered as the latter’s property. There is a stay on the order.
While tracing the history of the monument, the Chief Justice of India asked, "Who in India will believe that the Taj belongs to the waqf board? How did Shah Jahan sign the waqfnama? When was it given to you?"
The Board through Senior Advocate VV Giri claimed that the monument belonged to the Waqf since Shah Jahan's time and that it is a property under the Waqfnama. The claim is challenged by the ASI.
Appearing for the ASI, advocate ADN Rao said "there was no existence of waqfnama at that time".
"Under the 1858 proclamation, the properties taken over from the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, by the British vested with the Queen. By the 1948 Act, the buildings were taken over by the Indian government,” advocate Rao added.
The three-member bench of CJI and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud reminded the board that the monument which was built in the 17th century was passed on to the East India Company after the fall of the Mughal dynasty and further vested in the ASI post-independence.
"Shah Jahan used to view the Taj Mahal from his cell in Agra Fort where he was sent to serve house arrest by his son Aurangazeb. How did he sign the waqfnama while in custody? Show us the documents signed by the emperor," said CJI Misra demanding for documents with Shah Jahan's handwriting.
The issue was first initiated in the court when a resident of UP moved the Allahabad High Court to push his claims to be appointed as caretaker of the Taj Mahal, as a Mughal descendent. The High Court back then had refuse to intervene into the matter and asked to make a representation to the Waqf Board instead.
The Waqf Board is also contesting another crucial battle with the Supreme Court over the ownership of the Ayodhya land on which the erstwhile (now demolished) Babri Masjid stood.