New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board has been asked by the Supreme Court to show documents signed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to prove its claim that it owns the iconic Taj Mahal.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the counsel of the board to show it documents to substantiate that Shah Jahan, who had built the Taj Mahal in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631, had executed a ‘waqfnama’ in favour of the board.
Waqfnama is a deed or a document through which a person expresses intention to donate a property or land for charitable purposes or waqf.
“Who in India will believe that it (Taj) belongs to the waqf board,” asked the bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, and added that such issues must not waste the time of the apex court.
When the waqf board counsel told the court that Shah Jahan had himself declared it a Waqf property, the bench asked the board to show it the original deed executed by the Mughal emperor.
“Show us the signature”, the CJI told the counsel, who then sought more time to produce relevant documents.
The court was hearing a 2010 appeal filed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) over the ownership of the historic monument against the waqf board’s decision to declare the Taj Mahal as its property.
The bench also asked the counsel how Shah Jahan could sign a document when he was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb at the Agra Fort in 1658 after a bitter war of succession. Shah Jahan died in 1966 in the fort itself.
It told the counsel that the 17th-century monument and other heritage structures, built by the Mughals, were taken over by the British after the Mughal rule. After India’s independence, the monuments came under the Government of India and were being managed by the ASI.
The ASI counsel also maintained that there was no waqfnama. The court posted the matter for further hearing on April 17.
Another bench of the apex court is also seized of a matter related to Taj Mahal in which the petitioner has sought directions to protect the structure from the ill-effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area. The top court has been monitoring the development in the area to protect the Taj Mahal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.