Shariat courts have no legal sanction: SC

Shariat courts have no legal sanction: SC

Fatwas are opinions, not binding

Shariat courts have no legal sanction: SC

The Supreme Court on Monday held that fatwas issued by Muslim religious bodies like Dar-ul-Qazas (Muslim courts) and Shariat courts have no legal sanction and such orders would have no binding effect.

Though the apex court ordered that these organisations should not pass any verdict relating to rights, status and obligations of third parties, it declined to term the fatwas or the organisations issuing them illegal or unconstitutional. 

A bench of Justices C K Prasad and P C Ghose, while disposing of a PIL by advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan, passed the ruling, which touched upon the contentious issue affecting the minority community.

“A fatwa is an opinion only an expert is expected to give. It is not a decree, not binding on the court or the state or the individual. It is not sanctioned under our constitutional scheme. But this does not mean that the existence of the Dar-ul-Qaza, or for that matter the practice of issuing fatwas, are themselves illegal,” the bench said.

“Fatwas touching upon the rights of an individual at the instance of rank strangers may cause irreparable damage, and therefore, would be absolutely uncalled for. It shall be in violation of basic human rights. It cannot be used to punish the innocent. No religion, including Islam, punishes the innocent. Religion cannot be allowed to be merciless to the victim. Faith cannot be used as a dehumanising force,” the bench added.

It cannot be enforced even on those who asked for it by any process using coercive method, and “any person trying to enforce that by any method shall be illegal and has to be dealt with in accordance with the law,” it added.

However, the apex court recognised the importance of Dar-ul-Qazas, saying that it was an informal justice delivery system with an objective of bringing about amicable settlement between the parties. 

So it was within the discretion of the people concerned either to accept, ignore or reject it. The court refused to issue a declaration that the activities being pursued by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and other similar organisations for establishment of a Muslim judicial system and setting up of Dar-ul-Qazas and Shariat Court in India were absolutely illegal, illegitimate and unconstitutional.

Senior member of working committee of AIMPLB S Q R Illiasi expressed satisfaction over the verdict. “We are by and large satisfied with the verdict as the court rejected the plea to declare fatwa and Dar-Ul-Qaza as illegal and unconstitutional,” he said.

The Centre disfavoured abolition of the Dar-ul-Qaza or issuing the fatwa saying that those were advisory in nature and no Muslim was bound to follow them. “Few bad examples may not justify abolition of a system, which otherwise is found useful and effective,” it said.

The petitioner referred to the several obnoxious fatwas given by the Dar-ul-Uloom of Deoband. 

Twenty-eight-year-old Imrana, a mother of five children, was raped by her father-in-law. A fatwa was issued dissolving her marriage with her husband in view of her copulation with her father-in-law.

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