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High court asks Centre to define ' secular'.

THE Delhi High Court on Wednesday said the State shouldn't be seen as propagating any religion and asked the Centre to define what it considers secular.

The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation ( PIL) filed by Delhi residents Nafis Qazi and Abu Sayeed through lawyer A. Rasheed Qureshi demanding withdrawal of commemorative coins of the denomination of ` 5 and ` 10 with the image of Vaishno Devi, a Hindu deity, embossed on them.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice B. D. Ahmed and Justice Sidharth Mridul sought a response from the Centre and the Reserve Bank of India ( RBI) on the plea.

The PIL argued that secular democratic credentials of governance are damaged when the government issues currency with religious symbols.

The PIL further said that the government, by bringing out coins bearing religious symbols such as the image of a deity at regular intervals, was indulging in anti- secular actions. The government had released the coins in 2010 and 2013.

The petitioners have also sought a direction for the formulation of a national policy prohibiting the depiction of figures and symbols of any religion on any tangible or intangible property of the Indian State.

Additional Solicitor General ( ASG) Rajeeve Mehra, appearing for the Centre, told the court that such coins were issued to commemorate the silver jubilee of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.

The ASG further submitted that the Centre, in accordance with the Coinage Act, 2011, has issued several commemorative coins on various occasions.

" Since 2008, we have issued several commemorative coins with figures of different religions or other icons, such as Mother Teresa, pictures of Ajmer Sharif or that of St.

Alphonsus. Hence, the idea behind this is very secular," he said.

Questioning this, Acting Chief Justice B. D. Ahmed said, " But is this not the promotion of one religion or another at any time? The State must decide what is secular. Is it promoting all religions equally or is it turning a complete blind eye to all religions? How can you emboss symbols like these?" The high court has now directed the Centre to file a status report on its policy to issue commemorative coins within three weeks and has posted the matter for further hearing on April 23.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Mar 20, 2014
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