When Gods were Summoned to the Courtroom
God and Court


In recent times, Indian courts have passed some intriguing orders summoning Hindu gods as parties in legal disputes. In a Chhattisgarh civil court, Lord Shiva was summoned in a land dispute involving a temple. Meanwhile, a Bihar court ordered the appearance of Lord Hanuman in a case concerning the proper management of a temple. These developments made headlines for their novelty.

On the other hand, contrasting incidents reveal the sensitivities involved in legal matters impinging on religious beliefs. A judge in the Calcutta High Court ordered for removal of a Shivling but the person who was drafting the order fainted. The judge saw this as a divine sign and promptly withdrew the order. This highlights that courts have to act cautiously when dealing with matters of faith while upholding the rule of law.

Thus, the idea of making deities party to legal proceedings remains a complex and controversial issue. While Indian courts have recognized limited juristic rights of temple idols, directly summoning Gods as legal entities raises tricky questions. This blog examines the key Indian cases where gods were summoned to the courtroom and analyzes the legality, validity and implications of such novel judicial actions that test the boundaries between law and faith.

Shree Ram Janm Bhoomi Dispute – Making the Hindu Deity a Party

The Ram Janmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya involved determining the ownership and rights over the disputed land where the Babri Masjid once stood, before being demolished in 1992.[1] In lawsuits filed by both Hindu and Muslim parties, the Hindu deity Ram Lalla Virajman was made a party to the case. In 2019, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment on the dispute, upholding the juristic personality of the deity Ram Lalla.

The deity was represented by a friend, former Attorney General of India K Parasaran, as a defendant in the lawsuits. The judgment recognized the deity as a perpetual minor entitled to pursue litigation through a friend or guardian. Making Ram Lalla a party enabled adjudication of the deity’s claim as the owner of the disputed land. The Supreme Court relied on the legal precedent of the Utkal Thakur case, wherein courts had recognized the juristic status of Hindu idols.[2]

Upholding the deity’s juristic personality paved the way for the disputed land to be allotted for construction of a Ram temple, the deity’s legitimate claim being found most appropriate. However, the move to make a divine entity party to a civil dispute was criticized by some as blurring the line between law and faith. Overall, enshrining the rights of the deity marked an important precedent with implications for Hindu religious institutions.

Also Read: The Impact of the Ayodhya Verdict Analyzing: The Legal Reasoning

Suing God – An Exercise in Futility?

In 2016, advocate Chandan Kumar Singh filed a curious lawsuit against Lord Ram in a Bihar court alleging mistreatment of Sita in exile.[3] The case grabbed headlines for its absurdity and audacity in questioning the actions of a revered deity. Singh’s case was promptly dismissed as the judge termed it untenable and filed only for publicity.

Several inherent contradictions expose the futility of dragging God to court as defendant. How does one serve notice upon the Divine, an eternal omnipresent entity? Even if God is called to court, no human judge can sit in judgment over God’s actions as an equal. Our limited human understanding cannot fathom the cosmic wisdom behind events we perceive as unjust. Moreover, the omniscient God is aware of the grievance anyway, without a court notice!

Such gimmick lawsuits trivialize legal proceedings, wasting precious judicial time. They cannot pass the basic test of a valid cause of action against an identifiable party. These publicity stunts only amplify the plaintiff’s personal opinions and cannot result in any meaningful remedy. Singh’s protest lawsuit attempted to question Lord Ram’s divine nature itself indirectly. Thankfully, the judiciary recognizes the need to uphold certain rational boundaries.

The Farcical Trial of God in Bihar Court

Chandan Kumar Singh’s 2016 lawsuit against Lord Ram highlights why making Gods party to legal disputes mocks the dignity of the judiciary.[4] Singh’s grouse was Ram’s alleged cruelty to Sita in banishing her, an action that questioned Ram’s divine nature. Dragging God to the witness box implies He is answerable to human plaintiffs and courts can sit in judgment over the Almighty. Nothing can be more farcical.

Moreover, how can a human judge decide if events in scriptures actually happened and if they were unjust? Legal evidence and proof have no bearing over matters of faith and theology. Such lawsuits demonstrate an inability to distinguish the temporal legal domain from the Divine spiritual realm. They reduce revered Gods to ordinary human defendants in legal wrangles.

Importantly, no meaningful legal remedies can emerge from suing God. At best, the case will be dismissed as absurd. The plaintiff succeeds only in getting publicity. Unfortunately, such gimmick cases trivialize legal institutions and impede access to justice for genuine causes by clogging precious court time. Singh’s lawsuit was rightly dismissed at the outset as publicity oriented and procedurally untenable.

Upholding the Property Rights of Deities

Courts in India have recognized deities and idols installed in temples as legal persons capable of holding property and bringing lawsuits. In landmark cases like Pramatha Nath Mullick v. Pradyumna Kumar Mullick (1925) and Yogendra Nath Naskar v. Commr. of I.T. (1969), the judiciary upheld the juristic personality of idols.[5]

In the Utkal Thakur case (2010), the Orissa High Court reiterated the rights of an idol as a legal person. Here, the valid claim of a deity over land had to be protected when the state government tried to take over the land forcibly. Upholding the deity’s rights prevented arbitrary state action. Similar logic prevailed in the Ram Janmabhoomi case where Ram Lalla’s ownership claims over the disputed land had to be preserved.

Through such judgments, Indian courts have shown pragmatism in protecting legal rights over property even when the owner is an abstract divine entity. By recognizing idols installed in temples as juristic entities, the judiciary prevents their rights and interests from being harmed or appropriated by other parties when the property has no human managers.

The Pragmatic Need for Recognizing Deities’ Juristic Personality

Temple deities are invested with juristic personality to preserve their legitimate property interests in pragmatic terms.[6] Legally speaking, the consecrated idol is a distinct juristic entity, not the Supreme Divine itself. Temples often have no human owners or managers. Hence, the deity or idol has to be the juristic person who can be party to legal proceedings relating to that temple.

This prevents the state from arbitrarily taking over temple properties by legally vesting property rights in the deity. Moreover, the deity’s interests have to be protected in disputes with private parties also. Similar logic prevailed in the Ram Janmabhoomi case, where Ram Lalla had to be made a party to preserve the claim over the disputed land.

Critics may argue that idols have no life or consciousness, so granting legal personality is illogical. However, the law recognizes companies, minors, undisclosed principals etc. as juristic persons lacking full legal capacity, mainly for preserving bona fide property interests. Deities are also juristic entities with restricted legal capacity, being perpetual minors. Overall, the jurisprudence recognizes the need for balanced pragmatism.

Curbing Arbitrary Action by Making Deities Party to Proceedings

The Utkal Thakur case exemplifies how recognizing the juristic status of deities prevents the state from arbitrarily taking over temple properties, thereby preserving communal harmony.[7] Here, the deity Jagannath was made party to thwart the Orissa government’s attempt to gain control over temple land.

The High Court held that endowing the idol with juristic personality was necessary to protect the interest of the deity and devotees in the property. This declaration of law prevented the government from arbitrarily using its authority to override religious rights and protected the deity’s property from being transferred without proper legal procedures.

Similar logic prevailed in the Ram Janmabhoomi case where the deity Ram Lalla had to be made a party to preserve claims over the disputed land. Overall, the courts have acted pragmatically in investing idols with juristic personality to curb arbitrary actions detrimental to their interests. However, critics argue this blurs the secular legal-religious divide.

Critiquing the Granting of Legal Personality to Deities

While Indian courts have often endowed Hindu deities with juristic personality, this practice has its share of critics. Questions have been raised about the rationale of granting legal entity status to divine abstractions and idol figures without biological existence or full legal capacity.[8] Does making a deity party not undermine secularism by mixing law with faith?

Moreover, critics argue, temples and idols already have associated human devotees and trustees who can represent their interests before the law when needed. Hence, separately recognizing the deity as a juristic person seems redundant. It raises tricky questions regarding the exact nature of the deity’s rights and legal personality.

Proponents counter that the practice has emerged pragmatically to protect the interests of religious denominations when they have no clear human claimants or managers. Overall, the law strives for balance – neither favoring nor discriminating against any religious community’s interests. Granting legal personality remains an ad hoc arrangement as deemed necessary based on case specifics.

Interestingly, the Madras High Court has also frowned upon a lower court’s order summoning a temple deity. In a recent case, the Kumbakonam court had directed authorities to remove and produce the presiding idol of a Tirupur temple for inspection before the court. However, the Madras High Court intervened and prevented the lifting of the idol, given the sensitives and devotees’ faith involved.

The High Court held that the deity cannot be summoned to court as if an inanimate object. Instead, an advocate-commissioner could have inspected the idol at the temple premises. This restrained approach shows courts are averse to summoning deities to courtroom in a manner hurting religious sentiments, unlike summons issued to human parties. The judiciary remains conscious of operating within reasonable limitations when it comes to matters of faith.

The Slippery Slope of Suing God

While Indian courts generally dismiss cases filed against deities as frivolous, some international lawsuits targeting God or holy figures raise tricky questions. For instance, Nebraska senator Ernie Chambers filed a case seeking injunctions against God’s harmful acts![9] Romanian prisoner Pavel M. sued the Church for failing to prevent the Devil from causing him harm![10]

Such lawsuits highlight the absurd extremes of making God party to legal proceedings. Expecting the Almighty to respect human court summons or treat Him as an ordinary defendant liable for damages mocks religious sentiments. The plaintiff essentially seeks to sit in judgment over God’s actions and divine will. Nothing can be more preposterous.

Moreover, no material legal remedies actually emerge from such cases even if a court entertains them. At best, the plaintiff gets publicity. Wasting precious court resources on futile litigation when getting justice is already difficult hurts public interest. Overall, the judiciary must guard against frivolous publicity lawsuits crossing the line into religious offense under the garb of creative legal activism.

Also Read: When Ghosts Haunted the Courtroom

Key Takeaways and the Legal Position on Making Gods Party to Lawsuits

The critical analysis of relevant Indian and international cases highlights some key principles regarding the propriety of making Gods party to legal proceedings:[11]

  • Deities and idols may be pragmatically invested with juristic personality to preserve bona fide property interests of religious denominations, as done in the Utkal Thakur and Ram Janmabhoomi cases. This prevents arbitrary state takeover of temple properties or disputes impacting the deity’s interests.
  • Such grant of restricted legal personality is for practical considerations only. Courts do not actually place religious deities at par with biological legal entities. Installed idols are considered juristic entities, not the Divine Absolute itself.
  • Lawsuits filed directly targeting God or questioning events in religious scriptures will invariably fail on grounds of maintainability. No legal cause of action can lie against God or for miraculous remedies.
  • Courts will reject publicity stunt lawsuits that cross the line into offense against religious sentiments or amount to wasting court time. The judiciary must guard against misuse of its goodwill in the name of creativity.
  • A foritori, while the law strives for balance in ad hoc recognition of deities’ rights, granting excessive leeway in making Gods party to legal disputes can undermine the secular judiciary’s rational foundations.


In conclusion, Indian courts have displayed pragmatism in selectively recognizing the juristic personality of deities and idols to preserve bona fide rights and interests of religious denominations. However, this remains a controversial grey area. Sweeping powers to make Gods party to legal wrangling can mock judicial dignity. As human comprehension of the Divine is limited, lawsuits directly questioning God are bound to fail. Overall, the judiciary must ensure a reasoned balance between religious sentiments, secular foundations and practical considerations while invoking the deity’s legal personality in specific cases when absolutely essential. Well-meaning creative activism should not slide into absurdity or undermine the rule of law.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sahaj Singh Naruka

    Great research work. You make it really simple to go through the whole article, it helps us get to the point knowledge and information of concerned topic. Much appreciable.

  2. Aman Tyagi

    Hello Aman Tyagi this side form 1st year UFYLC thank you so much for publishing this insightful article I learned something new and interesting about law and I agree with you in respect of the claim that courts should only consider these cases after reasonably understanding the cause behind it and should avoid futile claims of the plaintiff.

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