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Minority cell mulls political lobbying

New Delhi, Aug. 27: Don’t confuse Islamic courts’ rulings with the fatwas of clerics, insists the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Removal of such “misconceptions” is part of the board’s two-pronged strategy to fight the charge that it is running a “parallel judicial system” in the form of Shariat courts or dar-ul-qaza.

First, the board will hand the Supreme Court a detailed report “clarifying” how these Islamic courts function and arguing that they lighten the judicial system’s load and thus are complementary, and not parallel, to it. The apex court has issued notice to the board ' as well as the Centre, the Dar-ul-Uloom (seminary) of Deoband and several states where Shariat courts function ' on a public interest litigation seeking to shut down the dar-ul-qaza.

Second, the board will lobby for political support. It is likely to approach ruling alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to persuade the government to give a “favourable” response to the Supreme Court.

It is, however, doubtful whether the Centre will oblige. Law minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj had recently stunned the board by saying that no “parallel judicial system” like the Shariat courts will be allowed to function.

Board members say Bhardwaj’s statement reflects “complete ignorance” about these courts. It is just this sort of “ignorance” that the board’s report to the Supreme Court will try to remove. Its main points will be:

nShariat courts are part of the country’s alternative disputes redressal system and cannot, in any way, be described as a parallel judicial system;

nThey complement the judicial system and constitutional framework rather than work against them;

nThe regular courts have often accepted and appreciated Shariat courts’ decisions.

“The dar-ul-qaza is an informal set-up. The courts provide people with a forum to settle their personal disputes,” said a member of the board’s legal cell.

“They don’t take up criminal matters or those already pending in regular courts. Their decisions are not binding on anyone. People are free to approach the regular courts if they are unhappy with the decisions of Shariat courts.

“They have nothing to do with the issuance of fatwas. Imrana’s case was never heard in a Shariat court.”

Imrana was allegedly raped by her father in-law at their home in Muzaffarnagar in June and a fatwa was passed that she should separate from her husband.

The board’s legal cell met today to discuss the drafting of the report. The board, which will hold an emergency meeting in Delhi tomorrow, will form a sub-committee that will spell out the functions of the Shariat courts.

The panel will have lawyers, experts in Islamic jurisprudence and ulemas on it.

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