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Hanuman waiting for Patna High Court ruling for release

Hanuman waiting for Patna High Court ruling for release

Author: Abhay Kumar
Publication: Deccan Herald
Date: October 19, 2011
URL: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/196546/hanuman-waiting-patna-high-court.html

No. In Bihar, may be. Nearly three months after media report about how an idol of Lord Hanuman had been kept in the strong room of a police station, the Bihar State Religious Trust Board (BSRTB) has finally woken up and initiated the first step for the 'release' of the incarcerated idol. Recently, the BSRTB filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Patna High Court seeking a direction for the return of all the recovered idols to the Trust.

The Trust has prayed that once the idols were handed over to it, the "divine beings" could be re-installed in their respective temples. The plea has been made on the ground that the Hindu idol/deity, being a juristic person, could not be treated simply as a property.

BSRTB Chairman Kishore Kunal, a retired IPS officer, has filed the PIL, claimed to be first of its kind. Under the present system, stolen idols, on recovery, are kept in the strong rooms of either police stations or courts after the charge sheet is filed. In both cases, the recovered idols and objects of worship are treated as properties and held as exhibits to prove the case.

For nearly 17 years, Lord Hanuman, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, remained in the strong room of a police station in Bhojpur district.

The reason: No one came forward to furnish a bail bond of a whopping Rs 42 lakh for the release of 'Lord' from the strong room. The authorities woke up after the media highlighted the "plight" of the Lord.

As the legal battle continues, the idol is still in the strong room of the Krishnagarh police station in Bhojpur district. Giving him company in the strong room is the idol of Lord Ramanuj Swami.

Both the idols were stolen from Sri Rangjee temple way back in 1994. The temple, built in South Indian architectural style in Gundi village in Ara, made headlines when the locals noticed both the idols missing. Since religious sentiments were attached to the temple, the Bhojpur police swung into action and recovered the idols from Gundi village in the same district. However, the idols could not be restored to the original temple, since none came forward to sign the Rs 42 lakh bail bond for their release.

It was not only a princely sum that deterred the villagers but also the fear of theft again.
"No villager came forward to furnish the bail bond out of fear that if they (the two idols) were stolen again, he or she would have to cough up an astronomical amount of 42 lakh in the court," said the manager of the temple Yugal Kishore Singh.

Over the years, the two idols appear to be damaged. Lord Hanuman has lost its tail as proper care was not given while 'in custody'. As per the epic Ramayana, Hanuman had set Lanka on fire using his tail. The condition of the other idol is still pathetic. The Swami has broken his legs. The Bhojpur cops deny the allegation that the idols had not been given proper 'protection'. They insist that the idols had suffered damage when they were recovered.

Upset over the media report, the BSRTB chief was ready to furnish the bail bond of ~42 lakh on behalf of Mahavir Mandir Trust for the release of idols. "But nothing tangible could happen as the original papers of the case could not be traced," said Kunal.
Now, the BSRTB has filed the PIL and raised very serious and important questions in it. The main point in the petition is: Whether an Hindu idol, having judicial status and being a minor in perpetuity, is entitled to be released unconditionally in favour of the Shebait from where it was stolen just like a kidnapped minor human being is handed over to their parents or legal guardian immediately on being recovered by the investigating agency?
The judgment is likely to have a wider bearing as the scope of Kunal's concern has expanded to cover all recovered idols for the unconditional release.

And his logic is simple: When all courts of the country are unanimous in accepting the idols, after "pran prathistha" (consecration of life by rituals) as juristic person and a minor in perpetuity, they should be treated as persons and not as properties. As such, the stolen idols, on their recovery, should be returned to their legal guardians - the mahant or trustee, without furnishing any bail bond.

Now, the two idols are waiting for a favourable verdict to be reinstalled in their temples. How long they will have to wait. Nobody knows.

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