In an historic ruling, India rejects a nine-year-old petition to ban sharia courts but maintains that such courts have no legal authority 

NEW DELHI — A nine-year-old petition seeking a ban on the Islamic Sharia courts in India has been rejected by the country’s highest judicial body.

In its judgement, the Indian Supreme court did not ban Dar-ul-Qazas (Islamic courts) or the practice of issuing fatwas, but maintained that courts such as these did not posses a legal authority and are unable to enforce their rulings on individuals.

The ruling stated, “Sharia courts are not sanctioned by law and there is no legality of fatwas in this country.”

A two-judge bench headed by Justice CK Prasad concluded that Dar-ul-Qaza (Islamic court) and Nizam-ul-Qaza (judicial system) are a parallel justice delivery system of an informal nature.

Fatwas (rulings) delivered by Sharia courts are a mere opinion and their enforcement would be considered as illegal.  “No religion is allowed to curb anyone’s fundamental rights,” said Justice CK Prasad.

“Dar-ul-Qaza is neither created nor sanctioned by any law made by the competent legislature. Therefore, the opinion or the fatwa issued by Dar-ul-Qaza or for that matter anybody is not adjudication of dispute by an authority under a judicial system sanctioned by law,” the court said. “A Qazi or Mufti has no authority or powers to impose his opinion and enforce his fatwa on any one by any coercive method.”

“Whatever may be the status of fatwa during Mughal or British Rule, it has no place in independent India under our constitutional scheme.”

The petition was initially filed in 2005 by a Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyer, Vishwa Lochan Madan. Following the ruling, he said, “The apex court has not banned the Sharia courts. But now it’s clear that Sharia courts are not legal either. Earlier there was no clarity on it.”

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the body that defends the Sharia law in India believe that the apex court has streamlined the procedure. “We have never said that the Qazi (Sharia court judge) or order of a Qazi is binding on any party and he cannot approach a court of law,” said Zafaryab Jilani, a member of the board.

Islam is the second largest religion in India with more than 150 million Muslims comprising of 13 percent of its total population.

Image Courtesy: Rajarshi MITRA (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tataimitra/11146655355), Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic | Flickr

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