India's Supreme Court sets rules for Sharia courts

Published July 7, 2014
A television journalist sets his camera inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi. — File photo
A television journalist sets his camera inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi. — File photo

NEW DELHI: India's Supreme Court Monday rejected a petition seeking to ban Sharia courts, but stressed that they had no legal powers over Muslims and their decisions could not be enforced.

India's 150 million Muslims follow their own laws governing family life and other personal issues such as marriage and divorce, with Sharia courts used to rule on such matters and mediate in disagreements.

The top court said that Islamic judges, who interpret religious law, could only rule when individuals submitted voluntarily to them and their decisions, or fatwas, were not legally binding.

“Sharia courts are not sanctioned by law and there is no legality of fatwas in this country,” C.K. Prasad said Monday as he read out the judgement from a two-judge bench.

The different personal laws followed by India's religious minorities are a sensitive political issue. The new Hindu nationalist government is committed to bringing in a common legal code for all.

Vishwa Lochan Madan, who petitioned the Supreme Court to disband Sharia courts, told AFP on Monday that his demand had been rejected.

“The Supreme Court observed that Sharia courts have no legal sanctity. But if people still want to approach these courts, it's their will,” he said.

He filed his petition in 2005 and cited a case in which a woman was told to leave her husband and children and live with her father-in-law who had raped her.

“No religion is allowed to curb anyone's fundamental rights,” the court added in its judgement while taking note of the case.

Qasim Rasool Niyazi, from the Muslim Personal Law Board, said the Supreme Court ruling vindicated his group's contention that Sharia courts were not a parallel judiciary.

They issue notices which are not legally binding, he explained. “It is just like an arbitration,” he told the NDTV channel, adding that qadis (Islamic judges) were required to follow the law of the land.

Opinion

Editorial

A watershed moment?
Updated 09 Dec 2021

A watershed moment?

THE bitter truth has been staring this nation in the face for years. Religious violence spawned by allegations of...
09 Dec 2021

Mobile market

THE mobile device manufacturing policy of 2020 is yielding good results — so far. The establishment of around 19...
09 Dec 2021

Workplace harassment

THE alterations proposed in the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010, will go a long ...
PDM’s lack of strategy
08 Dec 2021

PDM’s lack of strategy

Ever since the PDM’s whimpering end to its first campaign, it has hardly given any reason for the govt to have sleepless nights.
08 Dec 2021

Undertrials’ escape

IN any country with respect for the law an incident such as Monday’s escape of undertrials from a lock-up in ...
08 Dec 2021

Suu Kyi’s sentence

THE military junta that holds sway in Myanmar clearly wants to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi does not participate in...