The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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HC hands off bid to bar woman qazi

Calcutta, July 21: Calcutta High Court today refused to interfere in a dispute over the appointment of a woman as a qazi (Muslim marriage registrar) and sent the issue for disposal to the inspector-general of registration (judiciary).

Sabnam Ara Begum was temporarily appointed qazi of East Midnapore's Nandigram on April 8 last year, making her the first woman in the country to be appointed for the position.

Petitioner Mozammel Hossein had challenged the legality of the appointment of a woman as qazi and also sought a stay on it.

The court did not mention why it was not intervening but observed that the inspector-general of registration (judiciary) was the appropriate person to decide the issue.

Sabnam's father was the qazi of Nandigram. During his tenure, Sabnam held the post of nayeb qazi (assistant to the qazi) and assisted her father in performing Muslim marriage rituals.

After her father's death in 2003, Sabnam applied for the qazi's post to the inspector-general of registration (judiciary), who according to rules, is empowered to make such appointments. After repeated appeals by Sabnam, the inspector-general of registration (judiciary), appointed her temporarily as qazi of Nandigram last year.

Hossein, a resident of the same village and a contender for the post, moved a writ petition before the high court challenging the decision to appoint a woman as qazi.

During the hearing, Hossein's lawyer argued that there was no provision in the Shariat for appointing a woman as qazi. He said that according to Islamic law, women were not allowed to carry out tasks usually performed by men.

Appearing for Sabnam, advocate Kazi Safiullah Ahmed, dwelled on the progress made by Muslim women and alleged that the petition was moved with an intention to keep them behind the burqa.

'There is no bar in the Islamic law. It doesn't say that Muslim women cannot perform the duty of a qazi. Sabnam is the first woman qazi of the country. Instead of inspiring her, some members of the Muslim community are challenging her authority,' he said.

Muslim women were making progress in every profession, he said. 'Many Muslim women are going in for higher studies, going abroad and doing better than their male counterparts. At this juncture, one should not prevent them from moving forward,' Ahmed said.

According to experts on Muslim law, so far as the Muslim Marriage Act is concerned, there is no restriction in appointing a woman as qazi.

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