Delhi HC slaps Rs 1 lakh fine on man for making Lord Hanuman his co-litigant in temple land dispute


Tuesday, 7 May 2024 (18:10 IST)
The Delhi High Court has imposed Rs. 1 lakh costs on a man who made ‘Lord Hanuman’ a co-litigant to an appeal concerning the dispute of a private temple.

The plea was against a lower court order which held that a public temple on the private property belonged to Lord Hanuman.

The plea claimed that since there was a public temple on the property, the plot belonged to Lord Hanuman and the appellant man was before the court as his next friend and a worshiper.

Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed the appeal and ruled that appellant man acted in 'contumacious collusion' with the current possessors of the land so as to stop another party from regaining possession following a lawsuit between them and a settlement.

“The defendants (current possessors) grabbed the plaintiff's (the other party) land. The plaintiff sued to recover possession. The defendants pleaded adverse possession. Ultimately, the defendants asked the plaintiff to pay Rs 11 lakh to vacate. The suit was decreed on those terms,” Justice Shankar observed.

“Thereafter, the plaintiff actually paid the amount of Rs 6 lakh but the defendants still did not vacate,” Justice Shankar added.

“The plaintiff filed for execution. In the execution, the present appellant, who is a third party, filed an objection saying there is a public temple on the property dedicated to Lord Hanuman and that, therefore, the land belongs to Lord Hanuman and that he was entitled to protect Lord Hanuman's interest as his next friend, as a deity is a minor in law,” the court, in an order passed on May 6, stated.

“I never thought that God would, one day, be a litigant before me. This appears, however, thankfully, to be a case of divinity by proxy,” Justice Shankar observed.

“There was no concept of the right to worship at a private temple vesting in the public unless the owner of the temple makes such a right available or with the passage of time the private temple metamorphoses into a public temple,” underscored Justice Shankar.

The court added that mere worship by the public at a private temple does not convert it into a public temple as it would lead to disastrous consequences, which no civilised system of law could countenance.

In the present case, Justice Shankar stated, there was nothing to indicate, even prima facie, that the temple was a public temple and therefore the appellant man's claim that he was entitled to defend Lord Hanuman as his next friend does not survive for consideration.

Dismissing the appeal, the court directed the appellant man to pay costs of Rs 1 lakh to the other party.

“In order to avoid Appellant no. 1 now advancing the contention that the costs had to be shared by Lord Hanuman, it is clarified that the costs would be entirely payable by him -- with a small 'h',” the court clarified.

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