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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014

Courts can't interfere with fatwas: Supreme Court

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 25, 2014
First Published: 20:32 IST(25/2/2014) | Last Updated: 02:20 IST(26/2/2014)

Courts cannot interfere with fatwas or religious decrees issued by Muslim clerics, the Supreme Court observed on Tuesday while reserving its verdict on petition against Shariat courts.
 
A bench headed by justice CK Prasad said during the hearing on the PIL that the issues raised were political-religious in nature.
 
"We can't decide on them. In this country some people believe Gangajal can cure all ailments. It is a matter of belief," it told the petitioner's counsel.
 
Filed by Delhi based advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan, the PIL challenges the parallel courts run by Muslim institutions such as the Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa.
 
To support his contention Madan cited an instance wherein a Muslim girl had to desert her husband as a fatwa directed her to live with her father-in-law who allegedly raped her. 
 
"Don't be over dramatic," the court said, reacting to the incident. "You are assuming all fatwas are irrational. Some may be wise and may be for general good also. People in this country are wise enough. Who can stay mediation between two Muslims who agree to it? A (fatwa) is a blend of arbitration and mediation," the court told Madan.
 
It said though courts could make a rule to let people of the same religion decide personal matters in family courts, the same "might divide the country again".
 
The petitioner, however, argued Muslims cannot contest the fatwas and such decrees interfered with the life and liberty of citizens. The Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa function in 52 to 60 districts having a sizeable Muslim population.
 
The Muslim Personal Law Board has contended one could avail judicial remedy if fatwas affected his or her fundamental right.

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The Centre has urged the top court to be cautious ahead of the general elections, likely to take place in May. Making it stand clear on the issue, the government said it would not interfere in Muslim personal law unless it affected the fundamental rights of citizens.


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