In women vs Haji Ali trust, HC wants ‘amicable’ solution

Petition has challenged the ban on women’s entry into inner sanctum of the famous shrine.

Written by Aamir Khan | Mumbai | Published:March 19, 2015 2:09 am
hajiali759 Haji Ali dargah

Haji Ali is regarded as a patron saint and saints too are given birth to by women, argued a lawyer for petitioners who have sought the Bombay High Court’s intervention to permit women into the inner sanctum (mazaar) of Mumbai’s iconic Haji Ali dargah.

The trustees of the shrine, on the other hand, countered the argument saying women’s entry into such a place of worship was considered a “sin” in Islam.

The court suggested that in “sensitive” matters like these, an amicable settlement should be arrived at by members of the community. “It is a sensitive issue. Ideally, these matters should be resolved amicably,” it said.

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Noorjehan Niaz and Zakia Soman of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan have challenged the ban on entry of women into the Haji Ali dargah saying they experienced the restriction imposed between March 2011 and June 2012.

Advocate Raju Moray, who appeared for the petitioners, argued that the trustees’ affidavit itself says women were allowed inside at some point of time. However, Moray said, a stand was later taken on the advice of scholars about segregating men and women in places of worship in order to prevent any harassment of women.

“This is discrimination on the ground of sex and nothing else,” Moray said, adding that visiting shrines was not an “integral part” of Islam. “If they show it is an integral part of the religion, then it is a different thing. It is a place, then how can they stop women and allow men?” the lawyer argued.

The lawyer appearing on behalf of one of the trustees of the shrine said there were seven to eight doors around the shrine. “There is separate arrangement for women through one of the doors allowing them to reach a particular point, not beyond that. Even men cannot enter the place where priests are present,” he said.

Pointing out that marriage, inheritance and religion fall under the realm of Sharia law in Islam, the trustees’ lawyer said the petitioner was trying to interpret the rules. “How is it a PIL? You should file a suit as it concerns property,” he said. Moray countered the statement arguing it was his client’s constitutional and fundamental right to enter the inner sanctum of Haji Ali dargah.

Another HC bench had earlier asked the petitioners to satisfy the court on whether there are judgments and legal points favouring the petitioners’ case. After hearing the arguments, the court Wednesday posted the matter on April 1 for directions.

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