The Supreme Court of India on Monday imposed a penalty of Rs50,000 on former chairman of Shia Waqf Board Syed Waseem Rizvi, who had sought the deletion of 26 verses from the Quran, which he claimes are used as "justifications" by Islamist terrorist groups for attacks on "non-believers".
"It is an absolutely frivolous petition," a bench, headed by justice Rohinton F Nariman, said. The bench, which also included justices BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy, had already cautioned Rizvi's lawyer against pressing the plea but the warning was unheeded, resulting in the penalty.
"Do you seriously want to argue this petition? Are you going to press it?" the bench had asked senior advocate RK Raizada, appearing for Rizvi, who chose to make submissions instead of simply withdrawing the petition.
Raizada submitted that the focus of the petition was the indoctrination of children in madrassas, which were unregulated and had been engaged in imparting "literal interpretation" of Quran.
"These verses that I have cited in my petition are not protected under Article 25 (right to practise, profess and propagate religion). Islamist organisations use these verses as a tool to promote hatred and terror. They are used as justifications by Islamist terrorist groups for attacks on non-believers," argued Raizada.
The bench, however, expressed displeasure at the contentions and junked the petition with a monetary fine.
Saeed Noori, founding member of Raza Academy, which had filed a caveat in the Supreme Court for a hearing if Rizvi's plea was to be entertained, expressed satisfaction at the dismissal of the petition.
"As an organisation that promotes Islamic beliefs through publications and research, we wanted the mischievous petition to be dismissed with a penalty. The Supreme Court, by imposing the fine, has sent out a clear message that such any religious text cannot be maligned like this," Noori told HT.
Rizvi, in his plea, had alleged that certain verses in the Quran are a threat to the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of the country. He has sought a declaration from the court to hold those verses unconstitutional, non-effective and non-functional.
The plea also sought directions to appoint a committee of religious experts to get an opinion on these verses, besides seeking the central government's policy on the issue.
Last month, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) had issued a notice to Rizvi asking him to withdraw his comments on Quran failing which, it said, it will hold a hearing and direct authorities to take appropriate legal action against him.
The NCM had observed that the remarks made by Rizvi appeared to be a well-thought conspiracy to disturb the communal harmony of the country.
On Friday, the same bench in the Supreme Court had termed a petition by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and lawyer Aswhini Upadhyay that asked for a strict central law to check religious conversion as "very harmful", and observed that adults are free to choose their faith.
"There is a reason why the word 'propagate' is there in the Constitution. You have to have some meaning for that word. There is no reason why somebody above 18 cannot choose one's own religion or somebody else's religion," justice Nariman had remarked while dismissing the plea.