The Supreme Court has questioned the Government’s action of issuing coins stamped with religious deities, sparking the age old debate that whether such an action undermines the secular nature of the Indian Constitution. In this particular case, the Centre had issued Rs 5 coins with the image of the deity Mata Vaishno Devi embossed on the reverse. The Court was deliberating upon a PIL filed by one Nafis Qazi, seeking withdrawl of the coins from circulation, which were issued to commemorate the occasion of silver jubilee of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.
The Supreme Court bench consisting of Acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Sidharth Mridul questioned the Government’s action; citing that as a Secular nation, the State cannot use religious symbolism on public property. The Court directed the centre to submit a status report within three weeks on the PIL seeking the withdrawal of the said coins from circulation.
The PIL filed against the Reserve Bank and the Ministry of Finance had stated that “As India has chosen ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav‘ Sarva as its way of governance, it is not proper to have figures of mandir or masjid… on any properties of State.”
The advocate for the petitioner had argued that the issuing of such coins damaged the secular democratic credentials of the state and undermined the secular character of the constitution; while seeking their withdrawal. The PIL had also pointed to the fact that this was not an isolated incident and referred to the coins issued by the Government in 2010, commemorating the celebrations of 1,000 years of the Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur.
Additional solicitor general (ASG) Rajeeve Mehra along with advocate Neeraj Chaudhary appearing for the Centre had earlier argued that the coins had been issued according to the guidelines of the Coinage Act. On asked to submit a status report by the court, the ASG said that he will look into the matter and file the report in the stipulated time.