The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it could not interfere in Muslim personal laws as long as they did not infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens.
Additional Solicitor-General Paras Kuhad made this submission before a Bench of Justices C.K. Prasad and Pinaki Chandra Ghose, which after recording it, reserved verdict on a writ petition filed by an advocate in 2005 against establishing a parallel Muslim judicial system (Nizam-e-Qaza) in the wake of a fatwa issued by Islamic seminary Darul-Uloom against a Muslim girl, allegedly raped by her father-in-law.
The ASG said: “Fatwas are only opinions and the government can’t interdict the forum from voicing its opinion, which is not binding on the parties. It is only a mechanism for settlement of personal disputes in which government will not interfere and court should also not adjudicate.”
Even as advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan questioned the parallel Muslim judicial system, the Bench observed: “These are political-religious issues. We can’t decide them. In this country some people believe Gangajal can cure all ailments, it is a matter of belief.”
Counsel submitted that “gullible, uneducated Muslim citizenry was being forced to obey and submit to the same, using the name of Allah and Holy Koran. Various activities being indulged in by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and other Muslim bodies, amounted to an open, blatant and flagrant affront to the sovereign concept of the Constitution and deserved to be curbed and trampled, once and for all.”
Justice Prasad told the petitioner: “Don’t be over dramatic. We will come to her rescue. You are assuming all fatwas are irrational. Some fatwas may be wise and may be for the general good also. People in this country are wise enough. If two Muslims agree for mediation, who can stay it? It is a blend of arbitration and mediation. We should make a national policy that issues of personal matters in family courts should be decided by people of the same religion. But it might divide the country again.”
Appearing for the AIMPLB, senior counsel Raju Ramachandran defended fatwas and said Darul Kaza was meant to help rural Muslims have easy access to an inexpensive justice delivery system.