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‘Fatwas are illegal’

‘Fatwas are illegal’
The Supreme Court on Monday said a Sharia court, issuing fatwa and order against a person who is not before it, has no sanction of law and has no legal status. The apex court said there is ‘no doubt’ that such a court has no legal status while noting that in some cases, orders were being passed by them which violate human rights and punish innocent persons.
A bench headed by justice CK Prasad said that no religion, including Islam, allows punishing the innocent and ordered that no ‘Darul Qaza’ should give verdict which affects rights of a person who is not before it.

‘Sharia courts are not sanctioned by law and there is no legality of fatwas in this country,’ said Prasad as he read out the judgement from a two-judge bench.

The apex court said that Islamic judges, who interpret religious law, could only rule when individuals submitted voluntarily to them and their decisions, or fatwas, were not legally binding.
The SC was hearing a petition filed by Delhi-base advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan. ‘The Supreme Court observed that Sharia courts have no legal sanctity. But if people still want to approach these courts, it’s their will,’ he said.

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.
All India Personal Law Board had earlier submitted that fatwas were not binding on people and it was just an opinion of a mufti or a cleric and he has no power and authority to implement it.
The counsel, appearing for the board, had said if a fatwa was sought to be implemented against the wish of the person concerned, then he could approach the court of law against it. The petitioner had submitted that the fundamental rights of Muslims could not be controlled and curtailed through fatwas issued by qazis and muftis appointed by Muslim organisations.?

‘No religion is allowed to curb anyone’s fundamental rights,’ the court added in its judgement while taking note of the case.

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. India’s 150 million 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.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s verdict drew sharp reaction from Muslim clerics who said that the Constitution allows them the right to work and act according to Muslim personal law.
Zafaryab Jilani, member of the Muslim Personal Law Board, said, ‘We are not doing anything parallel to the judicial system and we don’t say that any order passed by a Qazi is binding on all. Our sole motto is to resolve a matter with the consent of two parties involved in accordance with sharia.’ Khalid Rasheed Farangi, a Muslim cleric, said that under the Constitution, Muslims have the right to work and act according to Muslim personal law.

‘One must also keep in mind that Sharia Application Act, 1937, has very clearly said that in those cases in which both parties are Muslims and the matter is related to nikaah, talaaq, zihar, lian, khula and mubaraat, the decisions will be taken in the light of the Muslim personal law,’ he said, adding that the verdict needs to be studied properly before a final statement can be given.
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