New Delhi : A fatwa issued by Muslim clerics cannot be forced upon people and the state has to protect persons who are harassed for not following such dictates, the Supreme Court has said while expressing reservations on interfering with the working of Shariat courts.
Holding that it is for the people to decide whether they want to accept a fatwa or not, the apex court said running of institutions like Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa is a religious issue and the courts should interfere only when someone’s rights are violated by their decision.
“We can protect people who are subjected to suffering due to this. When a ‘pujari’ gives a date of ‘Dushera’, he cannot force someone to celebrate the festival on that day. If somebody forces them on you, then we can protect you,” a bench, headed by Justice C K Prasad, said after the petitioner pleaded that a fatwa issued by clerics is unconstitutional.
The petitioner further contended that a fatwa issued by clerics or a prediction made by a ‘pandit’ do not violate any law, and courts should therefore restrain them from doing so.
“Which law gives power to issue fatwa and which statute gives ‘pandit’ the power to make a horoscope? The court can only say that the State will protect people if they are subjected to suffering due to a fatwa,” the Bench said, adding that some fatwas may be issued for the well-being of the people.
“We can’t decide on them. In this country some people believe Gangajal can cure all ailments. It is a matter of belief,” the court further told the petitioner’s counsel.
“These are political and religious issues and we do not want to go into it,” the bench said while hearing a PIL filed by an advocate Vishwa Lochan Madam challenging the constitutional validity of Shariat courts, which he said were allegedly running a parallel judicial system in the country.
The All India Personal Law Board submitted before the court that a fatwa is not binding on people and it is just an opinion of the Mufti and he has no power and authority to implement it.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the Personal Law Board, further submitted that if a fatwa is sought to be implemented against the wish of the concerned person, then he can approach a court of law against it.
The petitioner had submitted that the fundamental rights of Muslims could not be controlled and curtailed through fatwas issued by qazis and muftis appointed by Muslim organizations.