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Top court keeps hands off fatwas

New Delhi, Feb. 25: The Supreme Court today virtually declined to interfere with fatwas issued by Muslim clerics, or for that matter personal or religious issues of any community, unless they violated the fundamental rights of a citizen.

A bench headed by Justice C.K. Prasad, however, reserved its judgment on a petition filed by an advocate, Vishwa Lochan Madan, who had challenged the prevalence of Shariat courts and their fatwas on the ground that they formed a parallel judiciary.

“See, these are all political-religious issues. We can’t decide them. In this country some people believe Gangajal can cure all ailments. It is a matter of belief,” Justice Prasad said.

Madan, who appeared in person, cited a recent instance in Uttar Pradesh where a woman was raped by her father-in-law. But instead of acting against the accused, the Shariat court declared the accused as her new husband. The marriage with her first husband, the son of the accused, was declared void.

However, the apex court said: “Don’t be overdramatic. We will come to her rescue. You are assuming all fatwas are irrational. Some fatwas may be wise and may be for the general good also.

“People in this country are wise enough. If two Muslims agree for mediation, who can stay it? It’s a blend of arbitration and mediation.”

The judge added: “We should make a national policy that issues of personal matters in family courts should be decided by people of the same religion. But it might divide the country again.”

The court then reserved its verdict on the petition.

According to the petitioner, there were more than 50 Shariat courts functioning at the district level, apart from appellate tribunals set up by private Muslim bodies that supervise these Shariat courts.