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SC: No legal binding on Shariat Court fatwas

Highlights

SC: No legal binding on Shariat Court fatwas, The Supreme Court today rejected a petition seeking to ban Sharia courts, but stressed that they have no legal powers over Muslims and their decisions cannot be enforced.

  • BJP suggestion for a common law is a contentious issue


New Delhi:
The Supreme Court today rejected a petition seeking to ban Sharia courts, but stressed that they have no legal powers over Muslims and their decisions cannot be enforced. India's 150 million or 15 crore Muslims follow their own laws governing family life and other personal issues such as marriage and divorce, with Sharia courts used to rule on such matters and mediate in disagreements. The top court said that Islamic judges, who interpret religious law, can only rule when individuals submit voluntarily to them and their decisions, or fatwas, are not legally binding.

"Sharia courts are not sanctioned by law and there is no legality of fatwas in this country," C K Prasad said on Monday as he read out the judgement from a two-judge bench. "No religion is allowed to curb anyone's fundamental rights," the court added in its judgement.

The different personal laws followed by India's religious minorities are a sensitive political issue. The suggestion to introduce a common legal code for all, mooted by some BJP leaders, is a contentious one.

"The Supreme Court observed that Sharia courts have no legal sanctity. But if people still want to approach these courts, it's their will," said Vishwa Lochan Madan, who petitioned the Supreme Court to disband Sharia courts. He filed his petition in 2005 and cited a case in which a woman was told to leave her husband and children and live with her father-in-law who had raped her.

Qasim Rasool Niyazi, from the Muslim Personal Law Board, said the Supreme Court ruling vindicated his group's contention that Sharia courts were not a parallel judiciary.

They issue notices which are not legally binding, he explained. "It is just like an arbitration," he told NDTV, adding that qazis (Islamic judges) were required to follow the law of the land. The counsel of the Darul Uloom Deoband, Shakeel Ahmed Syed, on Monday said that the Supreme Court not only allowed the continuance of Shariat courts, but also disposed of the writ petition filed to stop parallel courts from functioning.

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