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Indian Case Summary

Shriomani Gurudwara Prabandhak … vs Shri Som Nath Dass & Ors on 29 March, 2000 – Case Summary

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In the case of Shriomani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar vs. Shri Som Nath Dass & Ors, the Supreme Court of India was called upon to adjudicate a matter of significant religious and legal importance. The case revolved around the question of whether the Guru Granth Sahib, the central religious scripture of Sikhism, could be treated as a juristic person. This question had far-reaching implications, as it would determine whether the Guru Granth Sahib could hold and use properties gifted to it by its followers.

Facts of the Case

The case arose when about 56 individuals from villages in the District of Patiala petitioned under Section 7(1) of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, for a declaration that the disputed property was a Sikh Gurdwara. The State Government published this petition in the Gazette, including the boundaries of the said gurdwaras which were to be declared as Sikh Gurdwaras. In response, Som Dass, Sant Ram, and Anant Ram filed a composite petition under Sections 8 and 10 of the Act, claiming the property to be a dharamshala and Dera of Udasian, owned and managed by them and their predecessors. They denied it to be a Sikh Gurdwara.

Issues and Court Observations

The primary issue before the court was whether the Guru Granth Sahib could be treated as a juristic person. If it was, then it could hold and use the gifted properties given to it by its followers out of their love, in charity. The court delved into the concept of juristic persons, noting that they are artificial creations of the law and can be of as many kinds as the law pleases. The court observed that legal personality may be granted to entities other than individual human beings, such as a group of human beings, a fund, or an idol.

The court also noted that the Guru Granth Sahib was not just a sacred book but was reckoned as a living guru by the Sikh community. The deep faith of every earnest follower, when his pure conscience meets the divine under-current emanating from their Guru, produces a feeling of sacrifice and surrender and impels him to part with or gift out his wealth to any charity may be for gurdwaras, dharamshalas etc.

The court also discussed the history of the disputed property, noting that it had been given to the ancestors of the respondents for the purpose of providing food and comfort to travellers passing through the village. However, the respondents’ ancestors had not been performing their duties, and the property had been entered in the revenue records in the name of Guru Granth Sahib Barajman Dharamshala Deh.

Conclusion

The court concluded that the question of whether the Guru Granth Sahib is a juristic person is a significant one that needs to be adjudicated. The court noted that this recognition is for subserving the needs and faith of the society. A juristic person, like any other natural person, is in law also conferred with rights and obligations and is dealt with in accordance with law. The court’s decision on this matter would have significant implications for the Sikh community and the legal status of the Guru Granth Sahib.