Bombay HC allows women's entry into Haji Ali Dargah

Says ban against fundamental rights

Bombay HC allows women's entry into Haji Ali Dargah

 In a landmark verdict, the Bombay High Court on Friday lifted the ban imposed on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah here.

The court ruled that the ban imposed by the managing trust of the shrine is in contravention of the fundamental rights of an individual provided by the Constitution.

“We hold that the ban imposed by the respondent No 2 (Haji Ali Dargah Trust) prohibiting women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah contravenes Articles 14 (equality before law), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution, and as such restore status-quo ante, i.e. women be permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum at par with men,” a division bench comprising Justice V M Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite Dere said.

Dr Noorjehan Safia Naiz and Zakia Soman of NGO Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan had filed a PIL before the high court challenging the ban, and made the Maharashtra government, Haji Ali Dargah trust, trustees and charity commissioner as the parties. The bench also directed the state government and trust to take effective steps to ensure the safety of women at the said place of worship.

However, the court stayed the implementation of the order for six weeks to enable the trust to move the Supreme Court.

The trust has no right to discriminate the entry of women into a public place of worship under the guise of ‘managing the affairs of religion’ under Article 26. So, the state will have to ensure protection of rights of all its citizens guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution, including Articles 14 and 15, to protect against discrimination based on gender, the court ruled. Shoaib Memon, appearing on behalf of the trust, said: “Islam discourages free mixing between men and women.

The intention of the said restriction is to keep interaction at a modest level between men and women.” 

Quoting verses from the Quran and Hadith (reports of statements or actions of Prophet Muhammad), Memon submitted that the prophet had ordered that mosques should have separate doors for women and men so that they do not enter and exit through the same door.

“We welcome the verdict,” Raju Moray, representing the petitioners, said after the judgement was pronounced.

The bench said the trust, under the guise of providing security and ensuring safety of women from sexual harassment, cannot justify the ban and prevent women from entering the sanctum sanctorum.

The trust has no right to discriminate the entry of women into a public place of worship under the guise of ‘managing the affairs of religion’ under Article 26. So, the state will have to ensure protection of rights of all its citizens guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution, including Articles 14 and 15, to protect against discrimination based on gender, the court ruled. Shoaib Memon, appearing on behalf of the trust, said: “Islam discourages free mixing between men and women.

The intention of the said restriction is to keep interaction at a modest level between men and women.” 

Quoting verses from the Quran and Hadith (reports of statements or actions of Prophet Muhammad), Memon submitted that the prophet had ordered that mosques should have separate doors for women and men so that they do not enter and exit through the same door.

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