Madras HC directs ASI to send samples of antique Quran to Oxford to ascertain how old it is

Chennai, Oct 31 (PTI) The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to take samples from an antique handwritten Quran within three weeks and send these to Oxford University to ascertain how old it is.

A division bench of justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan gave the direction while dismissing an appeal from the ASI against a single judge order ordering it to take samples from the holy book possessed by a man named A M S Ameenullah of Nagapattinam district.

The single judge had allowed Ameenullah's plea to ascertain the antiquity of the hand-written Quran in Arabic by sending the samples to Oxford University.

The bench rejected the ASI's contention that the holy book could suffer damage while drawing samples and said it could be taken from a blank paper in the Quran.

Hence, samples have to be sent to Oxford University, it said.

'The Holy Quran is in possession of the first respondent and his intention is only to know the age of the book and therefore, there is nothing wrong in sending the samples as prayed for by Ameenullah, and as granted by the learned single judge to the laboratories in Oxford University and Lucknow.

'Therefore, the prayer of the appellants is liable to be rejected,' the high court said.

Ameenullah is in possession of the antique and written Holy Quran on a handmade paper.

To ascertain its age, he wanted to send the samples to the UK.

Therefore, he approached the archeology department for drawing a sample and send it to the lab.

However, his plea was rejected by ASI through an order issued on March 23, 2017, which was challenged before a single judge, who had granted the relief.

When the ASI appeal came up for hearing before the bench, Assistant Solicitor General G Karthikeyan, appearing for the department, submitted that the Quran in question was antique as per Section 24 of the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972.

He claimed that it was not possible to get samples without causing damage to the holy book.

If the antique was destroyed or damaged, it would attract penalty under Section 30 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

Therefore, he submitted that the order of the single judge cannot be complied with.

He also noted that there were laboratories available in India and there was no necessity to send the samples to the UK.

The counsel for Ameenullah submitted that one blank paper has been left in the handwritten book, and the sample could be taken from it.

Recording the submissions, the bench directed the department to take the samples and send them to the Oxford University. PTI COR ROH ZMN