Deity, temple embossed on coins; High Court asks Centre, RBI to reply

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 20 2014, 02:46am hrs
The State should not be seen as propagating any religion and the word secularism should be construed in right context, the Delhi High Court today said while seeking response from the Centre and RBI on a PIL for withdrawal of coins having religious symbols embossed on them.

"The State should not be propagating any religion, be it Hinduism, Islam, Christianity etc," a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed said.

The bench issued notices to the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and asked them to file a status report within three weeks detailing the policy under which the symbols of temples and deities are being embossed on coins.

The word "secularism" should be construed in the right context, it said.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Rajeeve Mehra, appearing for the Centre, said such coins have been issued to commemorate a particular historical event.

"Anyway, we will file a counter affidavit to it," Mehra said. The court then fixed the matter for hearing on April 23.

The court was hearing a PIL filed by Delhi residents, Nafis Qazi and Abu Sayeed, through lawyer A Rasheed Qureshi.

The petition has sought a direction to the RBI and the Finance ministry to withdraw the coins brought out in 2010 and 2013 with religious symbols on them.

"Direct the Respondent No 1 (Centre) to formulate a national policy whereby figures and symbols of any religion are prohibited from being made on any tangible or intangible property of the Indian State," it said.

"These symbols undermine the secular character, a basic feature of the Constitution.... The making, marking, naming, drawing, embossing or displaying overtly any religious figure or symbol is tantamount to espousing a religion by the State," the plea said.

The government, in 2010, brought into circulation a five Rupee coin in celebration of 1000 years of Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur with its image embossed on it.

"Again in 2013 the Respondent No. 2 (RBI) brought out another five Rupee coin with the figure of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board embossed on it," it said and termed the state action as "anti-secular".