Bombay HC verdict on Haji Ali Dargah: Women must be permitted to enter the sanctorum - Celebania


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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Bombay HC verdict on Haji Ali Dargah: Women must be permitted to enter the sanctorum

The landmark judgment came two years after Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz from the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan filed their petition in August 2014. Women were only banned in 2011, when the dargah’s Trust claimed that it was a grievous sin for women to go close to the tomb of the Sufi saint Haji Ali.

Bombay High Court's Verdict
The five-year-old ban was overthrown by Justices VM Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere as they stated, “We hold that the ban imposed by the Trust, prohibiting women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah contravenes Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution.” The Articles quoted relate to the freedom to practise religion and also prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

The bench further said, “Women must be permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum at par with men. The State and Trust will take effective steps to ensure the safety and security of women at the place of worship.”

In the 56-page judgment copy that followed, the HC observed that Trust has no power to alter religious matters (as it did by introducing the ban). “The trust has no right to discriminate entry of women in a public place of worship,” the court pointed out.

Trust’s arguments
The court allowed a stay on the order for six weeks, after the Haji Ali Dargah Trust requested for time to appeal in the Supreme Court. However, the HC didn’t buy the arguments put forward by the Trust, which claimed the ban was meant to protect women from sexual harassment at the place of worship. “The Trust is always at liberty to take steps to prevent sexual harassment of women, not by banning their entry in the sanctum sanctorum, but by taking effective steps and making provisions for their safety and security, by having separate queues for men and women, as was done earlier.”

Koran verses quoted
The Trust also quoted verses from the Koran to justify its stand, but the HC responded, “Simply quoting verses is not sufficient, more particularly, when women were being permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum up to 2012. There is nothing in any of the aforesaid verses which shows that Islam does not permit entry of women in a dargah/mosque and that their entry was sinful in Islam.”

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