The Supreme Court Tuesday issued a notice to the Centre, National Commission for Women, Central Waqf Council and All India Muslim Personal Law Board after a Pune-based couple sought permission for Muslim women to enter mosques and offer prayers.
The petition by Yasmeen Zuber Ahmad Peerzade and her husband Zuber Ahmad Nazir Ahmad Peerzade contended that “there is nothing in the Quran and the Hadith that requires gender segregation” and added that “the act of prohibition of females from entering Mosque is void and unconstitutional as such practices are not only repugnant to the basic dignity of a woman as an individual but also violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution”.
A bench of Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer wanted to know if the protection of Article 14, that ensures equality before the law for all, also applies against individuals. The court sought to know if a mosque, temple or church can be treated as a state, adding that Article 14 refers to state action.
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The bench was not satisfied with the replies by the counsel for the petitioners and made it clear that it was hearing him only because of the Sabarimala verdict. “The only reason we may hear you is because of our judgment in the Sabarimala temple case,” the bench said.
Citing the apex court judgment in the Sabarimala matter, where the court said that “religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women”, the petition said women are allowed in mosques in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, US, UK and Singapore.
They claimed there were several women affected by this but were not in a position to approach the court. The petition said “the alleged act of prohibition of entry to mosque is violation of constitutional and fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution as there cannot be any discrimination based on caste, sex and religion”.
On September 28, 2018, the Supreme Court, in a 4:1 verdict, allowed entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Four of the five judges on the bench — then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud — ruled against the restriction on women while Justice Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting opinion, saying “the religious practice of restricting the entry of women between the ages of 10 to 50 years is in pursuance of an ‘essential religious practice’… notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion by courts”.