Ban on women's access to India's Haji Ali shrine 'unconstitutional': Bombay High Court

The shrine's trust has asked for four weeks to make the necessary infrastructural changes. (Image source: Wikipedia) Photograph:( Others )

WION Mumbai, Maharashtra, India Aug 26, 2016, 04.17 AM (IST)
The Bombay High Court in the western Maharashtra state of India said today that ban imposed on entry to inner area of women to Haji Ali Dargah is "contrary to the fundamental rights of a person as provided in the Indian constitution". 

Responding to a petition filed by a women's group on June 28, the court in a landmark order said that women should be permitted to the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine. 

Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz had filed the public interest litigation (PIL), which stated that gender justice was inherent in holy book Quran and the decision to ban the entry to the shrine contravened the Hadiths ( one of various reports describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad) that stated there was no prohibition on women visiting graves.

"Very happy. This is a great step towards justice for Muslim women," Zakia said after the court ruling. 
The Haji Ali Dargah trust that runs the shrine, however, wants to appeal the decision in India's apex court. Consequently, today's verdict has been put on hold for six weeks. 

"High Court should not have interfered but now that they have given a decision against us we will approach Supreme Court," All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) political party leader Haji Rafat. 

The ban was imposed last year after a resolution was imposed by the trust last year. 

Meanwhile, the state government had earlier told the court that women should be barred from entering the inner sanctorum of the dargah only if it was so enshrined in the Quran. "The ban on women's entry cannot be justified on the basis of an expert's interpretation of the Quran," argued advocate general Shrihari Aney.

On whether the court could interfere in the customs and traditions of a religion, Aney said, "If the religion (Islam) is going to fall by allowing women the entry, then the ban should prevail over fundamental rights."

(WION with inputs from agencies) 
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