The Maharashtra government has informed the Bombay High Court that the Constitution gives women the right to enter Haji Ali Dargah and that the right to pray or profess religion will have to be equated with the right to equality. Discrimination on the grounds of sex has to go, it said.
“Artificial discrimination based on sex could run foul of Article 15 of the Constitution,” said Advocate General Shreehari Aney, while suggesting that the High Court could intervene and issue a writ. This, he said, is done at a time when there is difficulty in implementing Constitutional rights.
He was canvassing the government stand in the High Court in a matter between a group of women challenging the ban on entry of women in the inner sanctum of the shrine. Article 15 (1) of the Constitution, he asserted, prevents the state from discriminating against anyone on several grounds including sex.
Aney, along with advocate Milind More, told the court that customs and traditions will have to give way to the Fundamental Right to freedom of religion. Aney asked whether the practice of not allowing women inside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine was part of the integral religious practice. The essential part of a religion cannot be interfered with, according to the state’s top legal representative.