The Supreme Court held on Monday that fatwas issued by Muslim shariat courts (Dar-ul-Qazas) do not have legal sanctity and cannot be enforced if they infringed on the fundamental rights of an individual.
A Bench of Justices C.K. Prasad and Pinaki Chandra Ghose gave the ruling on a public interest writ petition filed in 2005. Advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan, in his petition, said a woman from Kukda village in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh was raped by her father-in-law, following which the village panchayat passed a fatwa asking her to treat him as her husband. The Dar-ul-Uloom also declared that she had become ineligible to live with her husband. This was endorsed by the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board as well.
Disposing of the petition, the Bench said the fatwa had no legal sanction. “It cannot be enforced by any legal process, either by the Dar-ul-Qaza issuing it or the person concerned, or for that matter anybody.”
The Bench said the fatwa could simply be ignored. “In case a person or a body tries to impose it, the act would be illegal.” The Bench said fatwas on rights, status and obligation of individual Muslims, in its opinion, would not be permissible unless asked for by the person concerned or, in cases where the person is unable to do it, by the person interested.
“Fatwas touching upon the rights of an individual at the instance of rank strangers may cause irreparable damage and, therefore, would be absolutely uncalled for. It shall be in violation of basic human rights. It cannot be used to punish the innocent. No religion, including Islam, punishes the innocent,” the Bench said.
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