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Haji Ali verdict: 'Undue interference', say Muslim boards as civil society rejoices HC order

In a historic decision, the Bombay High Court today allowed the entry of women into the inner sanctum of world famous Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai.

India TV News Desk India TV News Desk
Mumbai Updated on: August 26, 2016 15:49 IST
Haji Ali Dargah
Haji Ali Dargah

The Bombay High Court verdict to allow entry of women into the inner sanctum of Mumbai's Haji Ali Dargah has triggered a plethora of reactions with several women's rights organisations across the country welcoming the order. However, some Muslim Boards are fuming over the court decision as they consider it undue interference with the Sharia law.

Reacting to court's order, a member of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Haji Rafat said, “High Court should not have interfered but now that they have given a decision against us we will approach Supreme Court.” 

Maulana Sajid Rashidi seconded Rafat’s reaction. “There are boundaries for women in Sharia law, people need to know that before interfering. It seems like the court has taken the step without knowing Sharia law,”he  told ANI.

The ban was imposed in 2012 by the Haji Ali Dargah Trust citing religious traditions. The trust defended the ban saying that the entry of women in close proximity to the tomb of a male saint is seen as a grievous sin in Islam.

Muslim leaders are expected to approach the Supreme Court to challenge the judgment.

The Bombay High Court today ruled that Haji Ali Dargah Trust must allow the entry of women into the inner sanctum of world famous shrine in Mumbai. It also said that the ban imposed on women ‘contravenes the fundamental rights of a person’.

A two-judge division bench of the High Court, comprising of Justice VM Kanade AMD and Justice Revati Mohite Dhere, observed that “women should be permitted in the dargah along with men and Maharashtra government should ensure their safety”.

The court, however, stayed its order for six weeks following a plea by Haji Ali Dargah Trust, which wants to challenge it in the Supreme Court.

“The ban imposed on women from entering the Haji Ali Dargah is contrary to Articles 14, 15, 19 and 25 of the Constitution of India. Women should be permitted to enter the dargah on par with men,” the bench said.

Under the said Articles, a person is guaranteed equality before law and has the fundamental right to practice any religion he or she wants. They prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion, gender and so on, and provide freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.

The bench allowed a PIL filed by two women, Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz, challenging the ban on women's entry in the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah.

"The state government and the Haji Ali Dargah Trust will have to take proper steps to ensure safety and security of women entering the dargah," the court said.

The High Court had in June this year reserved its verdict on the petition.

The PIL states that gender justice is inherent in Quran and the decision contravenes the Hadith, which proves that there is no prohibition on women visiting graves.

The Maharashtra government had earlier told the court that women should be barred from entering the inner sanctorum of Haji Ali Dargah only if it is so enshrined in the Quran. The ban on women's entry cannot be justified if it is on the basis of an expert's interpretation of the Quran, the then Maharashtra Advocate General Shrihari Aney had argued.

The Trust had defended its stand saying that it is referred in Quran that allowing women close proximity to the dargah of a male saint is a grievous sin.

Advocate Shoaib Memon, appearing for the Trust had earlier said, "Women are not allowed inside mosques in Saudi Arabia. They are given a separate place to pray. We (Trust) have not barred women. It is simply regulated for their safety. The trust not only administers the dargah but also manages the affairs of religion."

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