Look into issue of children taking part in Muharram: HC to Muslim leaders

  • PTI, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 09, 2014 21:05 IST

In response to a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a ban on the participation of children in `Matam' (mourning) ritual of Muharram, the Bombay high court on Tuesday appealed to Muslim religious leaders to look into the issue.

The division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice Revati Mohite Dere, however, refused to pass any order.

"We shall not express any opinion on the issue but we appeal to religious leaders of the community to go into the matter," the judges said.

The court also allowed Muharram processions to be held as per the schedule on December 14.

Advocate General Sunil Manohar, on behalf of the state government, said the processions would be videographed. The state, he said, would not interfere but would step in only if serious injuries are caused to the children.

The AG further said that the state would also keep first aid and ambulance services ready.

Muharram marks the anniversary of the battle of Karbala in which Imam Hussein Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was killed. To mourn his killing, participants hit themselves with sharp objects in keeping with the tradition.

Members of Shia sect thronged the court today to express their opposition to the PIL (which wants a ban on children's participation on the ground that they get injured during Matam). However, police stopped them from entering the courtroom.

Several members of the community have intervened in the petition. Their lawyers today argued that the court should dispose of the PIL as the petitioner was a Sunni Muslim and instead, they said, the court should take this up as suo motu (on its own) petition.

Accepting the plea, the court disposed of the PIL and took up the matter as a suo motu PIL.

The petitioner Faizal Mohammed Benaraswala said he had received threats for filing the PIL.

The next hearing would be on January 13.

The interveners' lawyers argued that Muharram is being observed in the present form for the last 1,400 years and to continue the tradition was in keeping with the freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution.

The court had, on the last occasion, expressed concern over the participation of children and asked the state why it was not doing anything in this regard.

The observation was made by the judges when they were shown photographs of injured children.

Advocate Gunratan Sadavarte, the petitioner's lawyer, argued that participants of the procession inflict bodily injuries on themselves and the PIL only opposed this act which led to wounding on the grounds of "health, public order, morality and provisions of the Constitution for social welfare".

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