The Supreme Court on Friday stayed an order of the Uttarakhand High Court declaring fatwas as “illegal” and “unconstitutional” after the petitioner Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind contended that the High Court order which came on a newspaper report had “misconstrued” a “farman” as a “fatwa”.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta also issued notice on the plea challenging the August 30 order of the High Court.
The High Court order came a news item in the Hindi daily “Amar Ujala” on August 30 about a diktat issued by a panchayat for externment of the family of a rape victim in Laksar.
Taking suo-motu cognizance, the high court remarked that “fatwa is nothing but extra-constitutional adventurism. This “fatwa” is against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. The panchayat, instead of sympathising with the rape victim, had the audacity to extern the family from the village”.
It ordered that “the declaration of fatwa is declared unconstitutional and illegal”. The court also directed that “in the entire State of Uttarakhand all the religious outfits/bodies and statutory panchayats/local panchayats/group of people are banned from issuing fatwas, since it infringes upon the statutory rights, fundamental rights, dignity, status, honour and obligation of individuals.”
Challenging this, the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind said what was issued by the panchayat was a “farman” and not “fatwa” which is “an Islamic legal pronouncement, issued by an expert in religious law (Mufti), pertaining to a specific issue, usually at the request of an individual or judge to resolve an issue in accordance with Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh)”.
It said the high court had not summoned the persons or police and administrative officials concerned and had proceeded “without any evidence on record and without testing the veracity of the news item”. The plea said the outfit was aggrieved by that part of the order which held fatwas illegal and prayed the apex court to set this aside.