“If a place of worship – whether it be temple, mosque or church, is used for purposes other than prayers and more specifically to create extra-judicial forums, certainly the authorities are duty-bound to take action against the same,” it said.
The Madras High Court has recently directed the government to take necessary action to stop the activities of ‘shariat’ courts in the state.
A division bench of Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice M Sunder was hearing public interest litigation against the disposal of cases by the shariat court, without following the law and procedures.
The bench observed that a perusal of the typed set of documents show that the proceedings are in the form of allegedly shariat decision given by the Makka Masjid Shariat Council.
“It mentions the office-bearers of the fourth respondent, including advocates. It refers to case numbers, file numbers, description of parties (which is as plaintiffs and defendants), and the date of decision is given. This is preceded by summons being issued allegedly regarding family disputes”.
Taking cognisance of the matter, the bench said it found that a colour is sought to be given of a judicial forum to this endeavour, though they were outside the purview of the court jurisdiction.
“We are unable to accept the submission of the learned counsel for the respondents that merely because these activities are going inside a particular mosque, they are finding it difficult to stop such activities,” the bench said.
It said if a place of worship – whether it be temple, mosque or church, is used for purposes other than prayers and more specifically to create extra-judicial forums, certainly the authorities are duty-bound to take action against the same.
The bench directed the authorities to take necessary action to stop the activities and file affidavit before the court within four weeks.
The Supreme Court of India had an occasion to consider a similar plea in 2014.In Vishwa Lochan Madan Vs Union of India, a two Judge Bench of Justices CK Prasad and PC.Ghose rejected the prayer to ban sharia courts. The Bench held as follows:
“The object of establishment of such a court may be laudable but we have no doubt in our mind that it has no legal status. It is bereft of any legal pedigree and has no sanction in laws of the land. They are not part of the corpus juris of the State. A Fatwa is an opinion, only an expert is expected to give. It is not a decree, not binding on the court or the State or the individual. It is not sanctioned under our constitutional scheme. But this does not mean that existence of Dar-ul-Qaza or for that matter practice of issuing Fatwas are themselves illegal. It is informal justice delivery system with an objective of bringing about amicable settlement between the parties. It is within the discretion of the persons concerned either to accept, ignore or reject it.”
Read the order here.
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