The New York Times Magazine recently included “Suing God” in its “Year in Ideas” issue, and this story confirms that the trend is international. And not new.
Last Friday, a judge in the Indian state of Jharkhand summoned two Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman, asking them to testify in a property dispute involving a plot of land. There are two temples on the 1.4 acre plot, and ownership of the land is being disputed between a temple priest, Manmohan Pathak, and local inhabitants who say the land belongs to Ram and Hanuman. Given the latter claim, the need for testimony from the deities is obvious.
But hard to get. The judge, Sunil Kumar Singh, has previously sent two notices for the gods to appear, but both apparently were returned after the addresses were found “incomplete.” That having failed, Judge Singh decided to try service by publication. He placed ads in local newspapers demanding that Ram and Hanuman appear and chastising them for not showing up before now. “You failed to appear in court despite notices sent by a peon and later through registered post,” Judge Singh’s ad said. “You are hereby directed to appear before the court personally.” I admit it is sometimes hard to find dependable peons, but based on the picture above you would think Hanuman at least would not be that hard to find.
An initial court ruling awarded the land to the local population, but Mr. Pathak then challenged that verdict in what was described as a “fast-track court.”
That was 20 years ago.