Female genital mutilation petition pending before Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Thursday recommended that the matter of female genital mutilation (FGM) practised in the Dawoodi Bohra community be referred to a seven-judge bench and heard alongside other matters pertaining to women’s right to pray, stating that it was a “seminal issue” regarding “the powers of constitutional courts to tread on question as to whether a particular practice is essential to religion or is an integral of the religion”.
A five-judge bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi made this observation in the 3:2 majority judgment delivered over the review petitions filed against the apex court’s 2018 Sabarimala verdict.
“For one, the reference to a larger bench is predicated on this being a religious issue, which FGM is clearly not; it is a cultural issue. It is an issue of rights, gender based violence and an act of crime. However we welcome the reference to a larger bench and hope that now the issue will be heard by a 7 judge bench on the issue of constitutional morality,” said Masooma Ranalvi, who has spearheaded a campaign against the practise, also referred to as khatna.
A petition seeking a ban on FGM — also called female circumcision, where a part or whole of the external genitalia is removed — is pending before the SC. Two Public Interest Litigations have sought a law against female circumcision on the grounds it violated the rights of Bohra Muslim girls. A few individual women, including Ranalvi, have also filed intervention applications seeking to become a party in the case.
On August 28, 2018, the then CJI Dipak Mishra referred this matter to a five-judge bench.
However, a bench has not yet been constituted to hear the matter in the apex court.