The Bombay High Court is likely to pronounce, on August 26, its judgement on whether or not the Haji Ali Dargah trust can prevent women from entering the sanctorum of the shrine.
In February this year, a bench of Justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite-Dere had reserved their verdict on a plea challenging the ban on women worshippers from entering the innermost shrine or the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah in the city.
The bench had reserved its order after the petitioners, a private Muslim women’s foundation, had requested the bench to grant at least an interim relief on the principles of legality and gender parity, without getting into the tenets of religion.
The petitioners had pursued the bench to pass an interim order on whether the shrine must restore the regulations on women’s entry to what was applicable till the year 2012-women were allowed into the sanctum sanctorum albeit through separate queues and at restricted timings.
During the last hearing, following the court’s query on the state government’s stand on the issue, the then Advocate General of Maharashtra, Shrihari Aney had said that women have an “unfettered” right to worship and that no trust or organisation must attempt to infringe upon such a Right.
Aney had also called the ban imposed by the dargah’s trustees as “unconstitutional” and cautioned the trustees against attempting to regulate religious laws and customs as per their own interpretations.
The trust meanwhile had justified the ban saying that the same was an integral part of Islam since the Quran lays down that women must not touch the tombs of male saints.
It had also said that by disallowing women from entering the sanctum sanctorum, the trust was saving women from much jostling, overcrowding, unwanted touch and even possible theft.
Following the submissions of the petitioners that they were seeking relief only intended to raise questions on Islam, HC had agreed to pass interim orders on the plea, though cautioning that the Apex Court’s order on the Sabarimala temple entry row will have a “direct bearing” on its orders on Haji Ali.
SC though, is yet to pass orders in the Sabarimala case.
The petitioners in the PIL have claimed that the shrine used to allow women inside the sanctum sanctorum between 1865 and 2012, though through separate queues and entry points. It has thus, urged the court to at least grant its prayer for interim relief whereby it has sought that the shrine trustees be directed to allow women inside in the same manner as before 2012.