Making it clear that a court can interfere only when somebody’s rights are violated, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said that fatwas or religious decrees being issued by Muslim clerics were a “matter of faith and choice” and it cannot issue blanket orders on banning them.
The court added that running of institutions like Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa was also a religious issue and the courts should interfere only when someone’s rights are violated by their decision. “These are political-religious issues. We can’t decide them. In this country some people believe Gangajal can cure all ailments. It is a matter of belief,” said a Bench led by Justice C K Prasad, while reserving a verdict on a petition against Shariat courts and their fatwas.
“When a pujari (Hindu cleric) gives a date of Dushera, he cannot force someone to celebrate the festival on that day. If somebody forces them on you, then we can protect you,” said the court, adding that fatwas issued by clerics or prediction made by pundits do not on the face of it violate any law.
“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,” it said. The court added some fatwas may be issued for the welfare of the people. “These are are political and religious issues and we do not want to go into it,” said the Bench while hearing a PIL filed by advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan. He has challenged the constitutional validity of Shariat courts for allegedly running a parallel judicial system in the country.
Madan claimed a Muslim girl had to desert her husband because a fatwa directed her to live with her father-in-law who had allegedly raped her. Mandan argued 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. “Don’t be over dramatic,” the court told the petitioner, adding: “We will come to her rescue. You are assuming all fatwas are irrational. Some fatwa may be wise and may be for general good also. People in this country are wise enough. If two Muslims agree for mediation, who can stay it? It is a blend of arbitration and mediation.”