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Indian court rules against fatwa

Publication Date : 08-07-2014


India's top court yesterday ruled that syariah courts and fatwas did not have any sanction of law, and fatwas could not be issued to trample upon rights of individuals.

The ruling came following a petition by a Delhi-based advocate who challenged religious courts run by institutions like the Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa.

A supreme court bench, led by Justice C K Prasad, held that such institutions cannot issue diktat (order) affecting the rights of people and their decrees will be illegal.

While refraining from issuing a blanket order prohibiting parallel courts run by institutions like the Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa, the bench made it clear that fatwas cannot be used to punish innocent people.

"No religion, including Islam, encourages people to punish innocents through decrees not sanctioned by law," it said.

The court also said that clerics or institutions can issue fatwas only if parties willingly approach them for adjudication of disputes but even in that case it is not legally binding.

While reserving its verdict on the petition filed by advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan, the bench had earlier observed that fatwas or religious decrees being issued by Muslim clerics were a "matter of faith and choice" and it would be difficult for a court to issue blanket orders banning them.

It said that a court can interfere only when somebody's rights are violated by these decrees.

"Which law gives power to issue fatwa and which statute gives pundit power to make horoscope? Court can only say that the state will protect the people if one is subjected to suffering due to fatwa… These are political and religious issues," the court said.

Madan in his petition had challenged the constitutional validity of syariah courts for allegedly running a parallel judicial system in India.

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.

Madan argued that Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa function in 52 to 60 districts which have a sizeable Muslim population.

He said Muslims cannot contest these decrees or fatwas, and alleged these interfere with the life and liberty of citizens.


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