Shariat panchayats can be set up under Muslim personal law
Fatwas just advisoryMuslims not prevented from moving court
New Delhi: Under the Muslim personal law, the Dar-ul-Qaza/Nizam-e-Qaza or Shariat panchayats could be established to settle disputes between two persons and their fatwas are not in conflict with conflict with or parallel to the Indian judicial system, the Centre has informed the Supreme Court.
It was responding to a court notice on a public interest petition by advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan seeking a direction to forbear the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) from establishing a parallel Muslim judicial system (Nizam-e-Qaza).
Mr. Madan said a village panchayat passed a fatwa asking Imrana of Muzzaffarabad in Uttar Pradesh, who was raped by her father-in-law, to treat him as her husband. The Darul-Uloom also declared that Imrana became ineligible to live with her husband. The AIMPLB endorsed this decision. The advocate contended that Imrana's status of marriage and the issue of dissolution of marriage were covered under Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. The Nizam-e-Qaza was sought to be introduced with the setting up of Dar-ul-Qazas at various places. They had actually started functioning as courts of justice.
He sought a declaration that the fatwas pronounced by various authorities were unenforceable; to direct the Centre and the States concerned to disband the Dar-ul-Qazas forthwith.
Freedom of religion
The Centre said the "freedom guaranteed by Article 26 to every religious denomination or every section thereof to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes and to manage its own affairs in matters of religion would include the freedom to establish Dar-ul-Qaza/Nizam-e-Qaza to settle disputes between two persons professing Islam, according to the Shariat."
These courts were not a parallel judicial system. Further the Dar-ul-Qaza/Nizam-e-Qaza did not prevent Muslims from reporting matters to the judicial machinery set up under the law of the land. Those who did not want to resort to the Dar-ul-Qaza were at liberty to move courts of law. "
The Dar-ul-Qaza/Nizam-e-Qaza is a form of alternative dispute redress forum without any enforcement power," the Centre said.
Seeking dismissal of the petition, it said fatwas were only advisory and the religious courts did not compel anyone to follow them.
Their objective was to bring about an amicable settlement between the parties and such a system was in force even in many non-Islamic countries.