Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Calcutta Quran Petition

Chandmal Chopra tried to ban the Koran at the Calcutta High Court in a Writ Petition on 29 March 1985. The book claims that Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 95 of the Criminal Procedure Code were often used by Muslims to ban or proscribe publications critical of Islam, and states that "so far it had been the privilege of the Peoples of the Book to ban and burn the sacred literature of the Pagans." It was under the same sections that Chopra tried to ban the Quran. Chandmal Chopra thought that the Koran "on grounds of religion promotes disharmony, feeling of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different religious communities and incite people to commit violence and disturb public tranquility..."

Chandmal Chopra also included a list of several dozens of Quran verses that "promote disharmony" in his petition. The book claims that these Quran verses embody one of the main themes of the book: "Nor have these passages been culled at random from different chapters of the Quran with a view to making the book sound sinister. On the contrary, they provide an almost exhaustive list of Allah’s sayings on a subject of great significance, namely, what the believers should believe about and do to the unbelievers..."

The Telegraph of May 9, 1985 reported that the Union Government would make itself a party in the case, and the Union law minister Ashoke Sen and the attorney-general of the Government of India were going to take action against the case. Muslim lawyers after a meeting condemned the case. According to The Telegraph of May 10, the Chief Minister of West Bengal called the petition "a despicable act". Other politicians in the Lok Sabha at New Delhi, and the Minister of State for Law condemned the Petition.

Pakistan’s minister of state for religious and minority affairs claimed that the petition was the ‘worst example of religious intolerance.’, and he urged the Indian government to ‘follow the example of Pakistan’ in ensuring freedom of religion.

The petition was however dismissed in May 1985. The text of the judgment is included in the book. The Attorney-General of the Government of India and the Advocate-General of West Bengal appeared in the case and argued against Chopra's petition.

On August 31, 1987 Chandmal Chopra was arrested by the police and kept in police custody until September 8 for publishing with Goel this book on the petition. Sita Ram Goel had to abscond to avoid getting arrested.

The Times of India published three articles which praised the Quran during the Petition controversy. Goel claims that a rebuttal to these articles could not be published in the Times of India. Goel claims that the chief editor, Girilal Jain, regretted his inability to do so for reasons he could not reveal.

Thanks to Vishal!

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