The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf 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 waqf 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 waqf board a week to submit the signature of the emperor who died in 1666.
In 2010, the Archaeological Survey of India petitioned the court against the waqf 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.
When the counsel for the board, senior advocate VV Giri, said Shah Jahan had himself declared the monument a waqf – an endowment of land by a Muslim for religious, educational or charitable purposes – and had executed a waqfnama in favour of the board, the bench replied, “Then you show us the original deed executed by Shah Jahan. Show us the signature.”
The chief justice also asked the board, “How did he sign the waqfnama? 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 waqfnama. “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.”