PATNA, INDIA, October 12, 2011 (www.deccanherald.com): The Bihar State Religious Trust Board has filed a groundbreaking public interest litigation, sparked by the desire to release two Deity murtis that have been held for nearly 17 years in the strongroom of a police station in Bhojpur district, their bail set at over USD 8.5 million.
The two Deities, Lord Hanuman and Lord Ramanuj Swami, were stolen in 1994 from the Sri Rangjee temple in Gundi village in Ara. After police recovered them, they were held as evidence--like common property--and their bail was set so high that no devotee dared rescue them. The villagers feared being held liable for the astronomical sum should the Deities be stolen again.
Bihar State Religious Trust Board chairman Kishore Kunal, a retired IPS officer, read media reports of the Deities' detention three months ago and wanted to immediately furnish the bail bond on behalf of Mahavir Mandir Trust and restore the Deities to their temple. But nothing could be done, because the original papers of the case could not be found. Undeterred, Kunal has filed a litigation in the Patna High Court seeking a direction for the return of all recovered murtis to their respective trustees so they can be reinstalled in their temples.
The litigation goes far beyond the matter of the Hanuman and Ramanuj murtis, raising some very serious and important questions. It argues that a Hindu murti/Deity, being a juristic person and legally a minor in perpetuity, cannot be treated as a property; instead, it should be treated like any other kidnapped minor, who is returned immediately and unconditionally to its parents or legal guardian. In the case of a Deity, then, it should be returned to the mahant or trustee, with no bond required.
Should the verdict be favorable, no stolen Hindu Deity, once recovered, need ever again languish, uncared for, in a police station.