The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Legal glare on ‘parallel’ court
- Imrana case triggers SC petition

New Delhi, Aug. 16: The Supreme Court today took note of a “parallel Muslim judicial system” allegedly striking root in the country.

Acting on a public interest litigation, the court issued notices to the Centre, the Dar-ul-Uloom, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and several states where Muslim courts apparently exist.

A practising Supreme Court advocate filed the PIL seeking to restrain the Nizam-e-Qaza (the parallel judiciary) from adjudicating in civil and criminal disputes involving Muslims on the ground that “religious judiciary” could not perform “sovereign function” in a democracy.

The PIL comes in the wake of the June controversy over the alleged sexual assault on Imrana Bibi and the fatwa ordering her to split with her husband.

Imrana was allegedly raped by 60-year-old Ali Mohammed at their family home in Muzaffarnagar. The Dar-ul-Uloom (the seminary in Deoband) had then decreed she could not live with her husband as he had become “a sort of son” to her.

Petitioner Vishwa Lochan Madan pleaded that an effort should be made to stop the parallel judicial system from striking root and a bar placed on “intermeddling with the marital status of Indian Muslim citizens”.

He sought a directive banning judgments by Muslim courts (dar-ul-qazas and shariat courts), maulvis and other religious bodies on matrimonial disputes. Criminal law had not been allowed to run its course in the Imrana case, he pointed out, as the issue had been hijacked by clerics.

On the PIL, a division bench of Justices Y.K. Sabharwal and C.K. Thakker issued the notices.

The states issued notices were Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. Notices were also sent to a Mumbai-based organisation, Muslim For Secular Democracy.

“Islamic courts have been formed (in these states), posing a challenge to the judicial system of the country,” the petition said.

Seeking “immediate dissolution” of such courts, it pleaded that the AIMPLB be restrained from establishing dar-ul-qazas in Thane (Maharashtra), Akola Dholiya (Rajasthan), Indore (Madhya Pradesh), south and east Delhi, Asansol and Purulia (Bengal) and Lucknow and Sitapur (Uttar Pradesh).

The petition sought a declaration that “fatwas have no legal sanctity”. It sought a directive that “judgments and fatwas pronounced by authorities not established under the Constitution of India or the procedure established by law have no place in the Indian constitutional system'.”

It also urged the court to “declare the movements/activities being pursued by AIMPLB and other similar organisations for establishment of a Muslim judicial system and setting up of dar-ul-qazas and shariat courts in India as absolutely illegal, illegitimate and unconstitutional'.”

Hearing in the case will resume after the eight-week notice period.

The so-called parallel Muslim judicial system first came under glare in 1985 with the Supreme Court ruling that Shah Bano ' divorced by triple talaq ' be given maintenance.

Although the order was later overturned by the Rajiv Gandhi regime through a bill that gave legal status to the Muslim personal law on maintenance, rumblings for a uniform civil code had begun.

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