Hindu god gets his day in court – and wins his temple battle

Hindu god gets his day in court – and wins his temple battle November 9, 2019

LORD Ram, represented by some of India’s most influential lawyers, today (Saturday) won the right to have a temple built in his honour on land where the 6th century Babri mosque in Ayodhya in was torn down in 1992, triggering riots in many parts of India.

Image of Pandey via Times of India

Ram had an officially designated “friend” in the long-running case – Triloki Nath Pandey, inset, who claimed in August this year that Ram had a right to be represented in court because he was:

A living being, who eats, takes a bath, changes clothes, and is guarded by forces.

From the BBC:

For centuries, a deity or an idol has been treated as a ‘juristic person’ in Indian law because many devotees donate their land and possessions to idols who are synonymous with their shrines. A devotee or the manager of the shrine or trust typically handles the deity’s possessions. In light-hearted legalese, the idol is represented by someone called a ‘friend’ of God …

But how do you define the best interests of God? And how can you be sure that the person is acting in God’s best interests?

These are tricky matters which have never been statutorily defined in the law, and have been handled on a case-by-case basis. But usually, unless another person also claims to be a “best friend” of the deity, there is no dispute. In other words, says a lawyer, God is entitled to one friend.

That “friend”, according to court papers, was Pandey. Together with Lord Ram, Pandey was one of a number the litigants in the case.

Pandey, 75, said:

To represent God is a glorious job. To think that I was chosen to do this job from among millions of Hindus made me proud and joyful.

The mosque in Ayodhya was destroyed because Hindus believed that it stood on the exact spot Lord Ram, was born and wanted to build a temple there.

The Babri mosque pictured before its destruction

The Supreme Court acceded to the litigants’ wishes and ruled that Muslims would get another plot of land to construct a mosque.

Lord Ram’s petitions in the court – essentially backed by a clutch of Hindu groups and meticulously written and represented in courts by some of India’s leading lawyers  – talked about worship, divinity, incarnations, and spirits of the divine.

They spoke about how it was “manifestly established by public records of unimpeachable authority” that the disputed plot was actually the place where the deity was born. The petitions added that the deity’s spirit:

Can be experienced by those who pray there.

The judges, after a marathon 40-day sitting,  also concluded that it was the “faith and belief of Hindus” that the place was the birthplace of Ram, even before the mosque was constructed.

When the mosque was razed to the ground, Pandey became involved in organising legal aid for 49 men accused of participating in the demolition. He also helped a number of Hindu monks defend themselves in independent investigations probing the demolition. (One of the investigations took 17 years to complete; and the criminal cases are still pending in courts.)

Pandey said:

I must have visited courtrooms hundreds of times in the last 10 years or so. I didn’t talk much there. The lawyers spoke on my behalf. Remember, I am the symbol of God.

After the verdict, he ceased to be a “friend” of the god, but he is unfazed by this.

I am with Lord Ram always. When I am with him, what is to fear? God has been vindicated.

In the unanimous verdict, the court said that a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) provided evidence that the remains of a building “that was not Islamic” was beneath the structure of the demolished Babri mosque.

The judges said that, given all the evidence presented, it had determined that the disputed land should be given to Hindus for a temple to Lord Ram, while Muslims would be given land elsewhere to construct a mosque.

It then directed the federal government to set up a trust to manage and oversee the construction of the temple.

However, the court added that the demolition of the Babri mosque was against the rule of law.

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