The Supreme Court junked a demand by Hindu parties to legally recognise devotees’ belief that ‘Ramjanmabhumi’ is a distinct legal personality, saying this would open the flood gates for other religious sects to adopt the arguments to claim large swathes of land across the country. Legally recognising devotees’ faith that a piece of land is a deity, and thus, a juridical person with absolute title over property would be fraught with problems, the court said.
For one, the Constitution Bench reasoned that it would prompt sections of various religions to associate plots of land with myriad events in a deity’s human incarnation, like place of birth, wedding or where he departed for the heavenly abode, and claim that the property should be declared a legal personality.
The Bench then described the problems connected to recognising land as a legal personality. “The conferral of legal personality on corporeal property would immunise property not merely from competing title claims, but also render vast swathes of the law that are essential for courts to meaningfully adjudicate upon civil suits, such as limitation, ownership, possession and division, entirely otiose,” the court observed.
“Where does the court draw the line to assess the significance of the belief as the basis to confer juristic personality on property? In the absence of an objective criterion, the exercise will be fraught with subjectivity. Conferral of legal personality on all religious claims to land would be to the detriment of bona fide litigants outside the faith — who may not share the same beliefs and yet find their title extinguished,” it said.
Further, conferral of legal personality on immoveable property on the basis of faith and belief of the devotees would be fundamentally subjective and incapable of being questioned by courts. “The purpose for which juristic or legal personality is conferred cannot be evolved into a Trojan horse that permits, on the basis of religious faith and belief, the extinguishing of all competing proprietary claims over property as well stripping the property itself of the essential characteristic of immoveable property.”