Maharashtra bats for women’s entry in Haji Ali Dargah

Equality must rule over tradition and customs, it tells Bombay HC

February 09, 2016 06:36 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 02:34 am IST - Mumbai

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday backed the entry of women into the Haji Ali Dargah, and told the Bombay High Court that equality must rule over tradition and customs. It said that unless the Dargah Trust is able to prove that the ban is part of their religious practice with reference to Koran, women should be allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum.

Appearing for the State, advocate general Shreehari Aney told a division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere that any claims to right to practise one’s religion must be weighed against the fundamental Right to Equality.

The court is hearing a PIL filed by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan that states women have always been allowed at the Dargah, but in June 2012, the trust restricted their entry into the sanctum sanctorum.

Mr. Aney said the only question to be considered is if the ban is integral to Islam or just a peripheral religious practice.

He said if there is any difficulty in implementing constitutional rights, the HC must step in.

He said women have unfettered rights to enter and worship and that prohibitions have to be mentioned in the Koran or its tenets and that prohibitions cannot be followed because of its interpretation by experts. He went on to say that religion won’t be harmed if this practice is done away with.

The advocate for the Trust justified the ban and said even polling booths have separate queues for men and women to maintain “tranquillity”. He said the ban is integral to Islam and women cannot be permitted to touch the tombs of male saints. He said that in Hindu homes, menstruating women are not allowed inside the kitchen even today.

In the last hearing, the HC had asked the State government to give its opinion on the PIL challenging the decision of Haji Ali Trust to ban the entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of the historic Dargah.

The court had also said that it will wait for the Supreme Court to decide on allowing women to enter inside the sanctum sanctorum of the 1,500-year-old Sabrimala temple in Kerala.

The Aurangabad bench of HC is also hearing a PIL on allowing women inside the sanctum sanctorum of Shani Shingapur temple.

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