A restraint on issuing 'fatwas' imposed on the Dar-ul-Qaza and Dar- ul-Ifta by the MP high court in 2012 has been set aside by the Supreme Court. With this, the two bodies that function under the Masajid Committee will be free to issue 'fatwas'.
In 2009, Zahir Khan Koti, a resident of Jabalpur, had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on 'fatwas’ by the two bodies. The petitioner had claimed that the two bodies were indulging in declaring talaq (divorce) and should be restrained from adjudicating marital disputes.
A two-judge bench of the Madhya Pradesh high court had in August 2012 restrained them from issuing 'fatwas'. Afterwards, the Masajid Committee had gone in appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising chief justice M Lodha, justice Kurian Joseph and justice Rohinton Nariman in Vishwa Lochan Madan versus Union of India and others case observed: "In our opinion, one may not object to issuance of 'fatwa' on a religious issue or any other issue so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of individuals guaranteed under the law. 'Fatwa' may be issued in respect of issues concerning the community at large..."
The apex court observed that in view of the pronouncements in the Vishwa Lochan Madan case, going into the details of Zahir Khan Koti versus Masajid Committee case was not required.
The SC also observed that the verdict of the MP high court in the Zahir Khan Koti case be substituted with its pronouncement in the Vishwa Lochan Madan case.
The SC clarified that a fatwa is not a decree and is an opinion given by an expert. It is an informal system of delivery of justice but it has no legal backing, observed the SC. It is up to the individual to accept the verdict of the courts or to reject them.
Counsel for Zahir Khan Koti at Jabalpur, Istiaz Hussain told HT they will examine the ruling of the SC. Sheher Qazi Syed Mushtaq Nadvi told HT, "I welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court on the matter."
The Masajid Committee was set up in Bhopal under the merger agreement signed between the Union of India and the erstwhile Bhopal princely state. Both the Dar-ul-Qaza and the Dar-ul-Ifta, bodies that give out opinions on matters covered under Muslim Personal Law, function under the Masajid Committee.