Friday, March 20, 2009

Jains lose custody battle of stolen idol of Lord Mahavira

New Delhi, March 18:

The efforts of three Jain temple committees to get a stolen idol of Lord Mahavira for offering prayers did not succeed in a Delhi court which trashed the claim saying it did not belong to them and was the court's property until disposal of the case.

"It (stolen idol) is the case property in the present FIR and its production is very essential for the prosecution case and in such a situation, it would not be appropriate to release the same on the 'superdari' (conditional release)" Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Nivedita Anil Sharma said.

The court said that being followers of the Jain religion did not make the claimants the real owners of the idol.

"Merely because the revisionists are followers of the Jain religion and pray to Lord Mahavira, 24th Trithankar, it cannot be said that the idol should be released in their favour," the court said, adding they were not its owners prior to the alleged theft.

The capital-based Shri Digamber Jain Mandir Management Committee, 1008 Shri Parshvanath Digamber Jain Mandir and Shree Vardman Digamber Jain Mandir Sabha had filed petitions after being denied possession of the idol by a lower court.

The ASJ, however, said the Metropolitan Magistrate may give its custody to the Centre or Archaeological Survey of India in order to maintain and preserve it.

The idol of Lord Mahavira was recovered from accused Manoj Kumar at Maurice Nagar Police station here in 2006 and a case of theft was registered.

The temple committees had approached the court seeking its custody on 'superdari' saying "the Jain community prays to and worships Lord Mahavira and the idol rightfully belonged to them ... it may be handed over to them for performing puja."

The court rejected the claim and said "even otherwise, it is yet to be established if the idol recovered is actually that of Lord Mahavira."

"The committees have not shown anything which could indicate that the right to hold the possession of the idol is vested in them as it is apparently neither they nor the person from whom the idol was stolen are the owner," it said.

The court held that the police, which has to prove the offence of theft and the antique nature of the idol during the trial, was the rightful owner.

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