The Madras High Court on Monday banned unauthorised ‘Sharia’ courts functioning on premises of mosques in Tamil Nadu while hearing a petition from a husband who was allegedly forced to pronounce talaq by one such court in the city.
The decision came on a PIL filed by Abdul Rahman, a 29-year-old sales engineer employed in the Gulf, in which he claimed that he was victimised by a ‘Sharia court’ and was forced to divorce her wife. The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sundar ordered the ban of all such unauthorised courts in the state and asked for a status report from the police within four weeks.
Following Rahman’s petition, a report filed by the Chennai city police denied reports on the existence of such a court. The police report, however, confirmed that some dispute redressals were happening at the Makka Masjid Shariat Council on Mount Road in Chennai.
Banning ‘Sharia courts’ across the state, the HC said that religious places and other places of worships are meant only for religious purposes. The court asked the state government to ensure that such unauthorised courts do not function.
The petition said that the ‘Sharia court’ which functioned on the premises of Makka Masjid Shariat Council was dealing with matrimonial disputes, summoning parties and passing divorce orders like a regular court. Rahman’s petition demanded court intervention “to safeguard the interests of a large number of innocent Muslims” whose fate is decided by such illegal Sharia courts and councils in the state.
A Sirajudddin, senior lawyer who appeared for Rahman, said: “He (Rahman) approached the ‘Sharia Court’ after he faced some family issues. His demand was to reunite his wife with him. But he was forced to sign a consent letter for talaq and they pronounced talaq on his behalf citing this letter to separate them forever. He moved the petition in the High Court after the police also failed to act on his complaint.”
The petition said many Muslims had to follow these courts as they claimed to be following ‘Sharia’ law, which is something that is said to be religiously binding for all believers.