India: Women to be allowed into Haji Ali sanctum sanctorum, again

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

DNA Mumbai, Maharashtra, India Oct 24, 2016, 07.38 AM (IST)

Women will be allowed into the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali dargah (shrine) in Mumbai, the shrine's trust told the Supreme Court today and sought four weeks to make the necessary infrastructural changes.

Women were allowed into the shrine's sanctum sanctorum uptil March 2011. Then the shrine's board of trustees imposed the ban on them, saying their entering the sanctum sanctorum was a "grievious sin". 

Noorjehan Fiaz and Zakia Soman, founders of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), had approached the Bombay high court against the ban, calling it unconstitutional. On July 10, 2015, a bench headed by Justice VM Kanade decided to hear the public interest litigation.

On August 26, the Bombay high court held that the ban imposed by the trust contravened Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution, and said women should be allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum just as men do.

The high court held that the trust had no power to alter or modify the mode or manner of religious practices of any individual or group. The high court, in a 56-page judgement, had also noted that the "right to manage the trust cannot override the right to practise religion itself".

The shrine's trust challenged the high court order. 

On October 7, the Supreme Court extended the stay on the entry of women into the shrine's sanctum sanctorum till October 17 after the shrine's management said it would come up with a progressive stand in two weeks. 

(This report first appeared in DNA)