The court decided on a petition by a Delhi-based advocate who challenged parallel religious courts run by institutions like the Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa.
“No religion is allowed to curb anyone’s fundamental rights,” the court said today, adding that the Shariat court can issue a fatwa only if approached willingly, and that too, will not be legally binding.
The petitioner, Vishwa Lochan Madan, had argued that Shariat courts are illegal and decided on religious and social freedoms of Muslim citizens. He also said fundamental rights of Muslims should not be controlled or restricted by fatwas issued by qazis or religious arbiters appointed by Muslim organisations.
The court had reserved its verdict in February, saying, “These are political-religious issues. We can’t decide them. In this country some people believe Gangajal can cure all ailments. It is a matter of belief.”
Mr Madan told the court that the Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa operate in nearly 60 districts in India with a sizeable Muslim population. He argued that a Muslim girl was forced to leave her husband because a fatwa directed her to live with her father-in-law who had allegedly raped her.
“Don’t be over dramatic,” the court told the petitioner then, adding, “We will come to her rescue. You are assuming all fatwas are irrational. Some fatwas may be wise and may be for general good also. People in this country are wise enough. If two Muslims agree for mediation, who can stay it? It is a blend of arbitration and mediation.”
The Muslim Personal Law Board argued that if fatwas affect fundamental rights, one can approach the court. The then UPA government had told the court that it will not interfere with the Muslim personal law unless it affects the fundamental rights of individuals.