New Delhi: A Delhi court has ticked off the city police for its failure to ascertain the age of an old copy of Quran, seized from a man allegedly trying it to sell it for Rs one crore, and has asked it to determine if the holy scripture is an antique piece as per the relevant laws.
The court pulled up the Crime Branch which had seized the scripture and got it deposited with the National Archives of India (NAI) on court`s order saying it was an antique piece, but later sought its release saying it is not an antique as it is not more than 100 years old.
"The Investigating Officer (IO) seems to have hastily arrived at the conclusion that since the Holy Quran is not more than 100 years old, it is not covered under the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972 and therefore, no offence (is made out)," said Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Manish Yaduvanshi.
Referring to another clause of the Act which says any manuscript or document of scientific, historical, literary or aesthetic value, which has been in existence for not less than 75 years may be an antique, the ACMM added, "There is no reference as to whether this manuscript has been in existence for not less than 75 years."
He said there is no opinion as to "whether the book has been in existence for less than 75 years and if the holy book shall be having literary or aesthetic value."
The police had sought release of the Quran`s copy on the basis of a report by the Director General of Archives that it is not an antique piece as it might not be older than 100 years.
The report had also said the book seems to have golden work, borders and written on Kashmiri paper but is not a manuscript under the Antiquities Act.
The case involving the holy scripture dated back to July
6, 2011 when the Crime Branch of city police got a tip off that an old Delhi resident Azaz Ahmed Shakil would be selling his antique piece of Quran for Rs one crore to a person at Rajghat.
Acting on the tip off, the police arrested Shakil from Rajghat and seized the holy scripture.
During interrogation, Shakil had said he was given the book by an acquaintance, now residing abroad, for sale. The court, however, later noted the police did not make any effort to trace Shakil`s acquaintance.
The court had given the book`s custody to NAI on July 15, 2011 after the police gave to it NAI`s senior archivist Zakir Hussain`s report that the seized book is a manuscript under the Antiquities Act.
The office of the Director General of Archives on June 9, 2012, however, handed over to the police another report on book, saying the scripture was not an antique copy and on the basis of this report the police had sought release of the book and discharge of accused Shakil.
The court, however, noted, "The final report is not only improper but also appears to be lacking in material particulars as it does not contain any particular about the person who prepared it and the competence of the person preparing it."
The ACMM said the probe regarding acquaintance of accused is "not satisfactory" yet the court has been urged upon cancel the case and release the book.
"As per opinion report relied upon by the police, the manuscript was to be transferred to the national archives permanently after the final judgement of this court whereas investigating agency seeks release of the book for being handed over to the accused.
"This creates doubt about the request made in the accompanying application of the IO regarding discharge of the accused and release of case property only for reasons best known to the investigating agency on which I refrain from passing a comment," the court said.
The court directed joint commissioner of police (Central Range) to inquire into points raised by the court and submit a report every fortnight till the inquiry is complete.