India refuses to ban sharia courts

February 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Delhi, newsletter-india

Indian supreme courtNew Delhi, February 27, 2014: Supreme Court says fatwa is often ‘for the general good’.

India’s Supreme Court has declined to interfere with orders from religious courts, refusing to ban Islamic sharia courts from operating in the country.

It said on Tuesday that the country has systems to protect those who refuse to follow the decrees of such courts, stressing that no one can impose the ruling of a religious court.

However, critics say the Suprems Court’s refusal to impose a ban will increase obscurantism and religious fanaticism in the country.

“It simply shows the weakness of the Indian constitutional system and the moral poverty of the government,” Nava Yogendra Swami, a senior monk for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

“We are not yet secular. We need to revise the constitution,” he told ucanews.com.

The court’s observation came on a case challenging the fatwa of an Islamic court that forced a Muslim woman to desert her husband and marry her father-in-law, who allegedly raped her.

“We can protect people who are subjected to suffering due to this … If somebody forces them on you, then we can protect you,” the court reportedly said.

Ahmed Bukhari, head cleric of Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, welcomed the court ruling and said sharia courts are “a religious necessity” for Muslims.

“[Sharia courts] are part of a right Muslim life according to the Qur’an, they do not interfere with secular values of the country and they do not impose the order on anyone,” Bukhari told ucanews.com.

The petitioner, lawyer Vishwa Lochan Madan, challenged the constitutional validity of the sharia courts, saying they represented a parallel judicial system.

Madan said sharia courts are active in some 60 of India’s 670 districts where Muslims are a majority. Poor villagers, who live away from the courts and police systems, cannot oppose the decrees and fatwa of these courts, which violate the basic rights of citizens, he argued.

The court countered that Madan was assuming that all fatwas are irrational.

“Some fatwas may be wise and may be for the general good. People in this country are wise enough,” the court said. “These are political and religious issues and we do not want to go into it.”

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a body established to apply and protect Muslim personal law in India, told the court that no fatwa is binding on people and their religious courts have no power of implementation.

The latest observation of the court, in an election year, comes in contrast with its own 2011 order against khap, or community, courts. The court had deemed such courts “wholly illegal” and said persons behind them “deserve harsh punishment”.

One reason for the change is seen as the general elections due in May and the unwillingness of the ruling coalition to offend the voting bloc of 176 million Muslims, observers said.

– ucanews

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