SC to Waqf Board: Show documents signed by Shah Jahan to prove ownership on Taj Mahal

The Supreme Court on April 11, 2018 asked the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board to show documents signed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to prove its ownership on the iconic Taj Mahal, a 17th century monument. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud asked the Waqf board counsel to authenticate through documents that Shah Jahan had executed a ‘Waqfnama’ in favour of the Waqf board. Waqfnama is a document through which a person conveys intention to donate a property or land to Waqf for charitable purpose.

The apex court ruled this when the Waqf board counsel told the court that Shah Jahan had himself declared the Taj Mahal a Waqf property. The court was hearing an appeal filed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) against the waqf board’s decision to declare the Taj Mahal as its property. The ASI also maintained that there was no waqfnama.

The Bench also raised a question in front of the Waqf board that how Shah Jahan could sign a document when he was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb after a bitter war of succession at the Agra Fort in 1658 and the Mughal emperor died in the fort itself in 1666. It was only after India’s independence that the monuments came under the supervision of the Union Government and were being managed by the ASI.

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