Last month, a sub-divisional magistrate’s court in India summonsed monkey god Lord Hanuman for encroaching on land belonging to the Irrigation Department. The summons was served on February 5 by pasting the document to the statue of the monkey god Hanuman in Dehri-on-Sone, a town in the district of Rohtas. According to the document, the monkey god Hanuman was due to appear in court for a hearing on February 16. He failed to appear.
The court, pursuing a case made by the Irrigation Department, issued the summons as part of a large batch, all for land encroachment. As well as summonsing the monkey god, writs were issued for Sai Baba, a deceased saint, and approximately 100 others. When the summons for the monkey god came to the attention of Magistrate Pankaj Patel, he dictated a new order be made out to the proprietors of the monkey god’s temple, rather than to the god Hanuman himself. In comments reported by The Indian Express, Judge Patel put the summons down to a clerical error and said that the monkey god could not be served papers or asked to appear in court.
“Neither a notice can be sent to God nor God can be asked to appear in the court.”
Monkeys are sacred to the god Hanuman, and are therefore protected in many parts of India.
[Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images]It would appear that a new survey of the town had singled out the roadside temple to Hanuman the monkey god as an obstruction to traffic. The summons had always been for the temple, but the officials serving the papers seemingly became confused and served the god instead by sticking the papers on his idol. Various local and international news agencies proceeded to make hay of the phrase “red-faced officials,” making a play on the fact that the monkey god Hanuman is often depicted with a bright red face.
The worship of Hanuman is a key part of the festival of Diwali. [Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images]This is not the first time Hanuman, who is something of a trickster god, has been sued. In a previous case also regarding a land dispute, the Hanuman and Ram, a senior god with whom he is usually associated, were summonsed to appear “personally” in order to determine the ownership of land on which their temples were situated. When the papers were returned by officials citing “incomplete addresses,” the judge took out ads in the local newspaper, chiding the two gods for their failure to appear. The court in question was a “fast-track” court designed to quickly resolve disputes that had been dragging on. This particular land dispute was between local villagers and the priests of the temples of Hanuman and Ram. The locals claimed that the land on which the temples sat belonged to the gods, whereas the priests of the temples believed that it belonged to the temples. The judge’s reasoning was that the locals’ case rested on the assertion that the land had been donated to the gods, and that the gods should therefore be made parties to the case. It is assumed that he was aware of their likely non-appearance and issued the summons in order to make a point.
Hanuman the monkey god is one of the most popular gods in India. [Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images]Interestingly, this reflects the case of Nebraska Senator Ernie Chambers, who once brought an action against the Christian God seeking a permanent injunction for “widespread death, destruction and terrorisation of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants.” The judge threw the case out because God did not have a “proper address” and could therefore never be served papers, which is a judicial requirement. Chambers argued that since God was omniscient, there must therefore be an awareness of the case and the summons and that it could be said that God had been served. The judge, however, did not agree.
[Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]