Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN | Feb 26, 2014, 01.58 AM IST
A bench of Justices C K Prasad and P C Ghose made it clear that the judiciary could redress a fatwa while hearing final arguments on a PIL by Vishwa Lochan Madan, drawing the court’s attention to parallel Shariat courts that were mushrooming in India. Madan sought a declaration that such fatwas were illegal.
The bench said fatwas and dictates by muftis had no sanction in law. “Anything not sanctioned by the law need not be taken cognizance by anyone. The muftis can take up any issue and dictate a fatwa. But this will be akin to any common man’s view on an issue,” it said.
The court’s observations have implications for other informal pressure groups like khaps that have issued diktats that range from imposing social boycott to handing out death sentences for marriages within the same gotra or clan.
When Madan complained that poor and uneducated Muslims were forced to obey fatwas, the bench said, “If someone suffers because of a fatwa, be sure we will come to the rescue of the sufferer.”
The court said there were fatwas which could also be for general good of the community. However, it was firm that under the constitutional scheme of things, nobody was bound by the fatwas.
It said Hindus too had Shankaracharyas, Mandaleswars and Mahamandaleswars. “There are followers who obey their directions. But can it have any legal sanctity,” it asked.
“If someone voluntarily follows the fatwas or directions of the religious figures, it is purely up to them. But can these dictates, fatwa or religious head’s directions, be enforced in a court of law? If someone is punished for not obeying the fatwa, then the judiciary is there to set right that wrong,” the bench said.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board through senior advocate Raju Ramachandran shared the views of the bench and said it was purely voluntary for the believers to obey a fatwa.
“When a Muslim or a non-Muslim approaches a mufti with a problem, the mufti looks into the issue taking help of the Shariat law and issues a fatwa. But a mufti does not verify the correctness of the facts stated before him by the person who approaches him. A fatwa can cover all aspects of life, from hygiene to marital disputes. A mufti has no power to impose his fatwa on anyone. Even the seeker of advice can ignore the fatwa,” he said.
AIMPLB also said if a fatwa violated the fundamental right of anyone, then the doors of the court were always open to seek redress. However, it conceded that it was training qazis in Muslim personal law to resolve disputes relating to marriage.
However, the qazis were barred from entertaining any criminal matter, he clarified