Petition against "Shariat courts" is miguided
By Zafarul-Islam Khan
New Delhi, Aug 18 (The
Milli Gazette): The petition filed
by one VL Madan in the apex court seeking ban of "Islamic
Courts" is based on utter
ignorance. The petitioner claims that Muslims have set up a "parallel
judicial" system, which, according to him, is a "challenge"
to the country's judicial system. The petitioner, said to be an advocate,
has also asked the central and state governments to dissolve all Shariat
The petitioner has further claimed
that in the case of Imrana, the village panchayat issued a
"fatwa" asking her to treat her father-in-law as her husband.
How can a village panchayat issue a "fatwa"? This is
based on the misinformation spread at the time by the media which
described the village panchayat as "Shariat panchayat."
The truth is that the panchayat was a normal village council which
had nothing to do with Islam or muftis or Shariat courts.
According to media reports, the
petitioner has also claimed that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board
and other Muslim bodies indulge in activities which are "an open,
blatant and flagrant affront on [sic] the sovereign concept of the
Constitution and deserved to be curbed and trampled, once and for
all." In other words, the gentleman wants to abolish the religious
and civil freedoms the Muslim community has continuously enjoyed since the
advent of the British rule after the fall of the Mughal empire. Such a
demand is a clear violation of the Indian Constitution, laws, fundamental
and human rights as we understand them.
The petitioner, according to media
reports, also claims that by issuing a fatwa on the Imrana issue,
the Deoband seminary "hijacked the entire issue and thus prevented
the criminal law of the land from taking its natural course." Far
from this, there was an outcry against the fatwa within the Muslim
community itself, and the fatwa in no way whatsoever thwarted the
course of criminal justice as the fatwa was issued on 25 June while
the alleged criminal was already arrested and jailed on 16 June, waiting
prosecution in a Muzaffarnagar court.
Shariat courts are arbitration
councils which have no real or claimed judicial powers or authority
whatsoever. Hence these councils cannot not be termed as a "parallel
system" by any stretch of imagination. Their verdicts are nothing
more than recommendations and advice. It is entirely left up to the two
parties to accept the verdict or to reject it. In case of rejection, the
so-called "Shariat courts" is powerless and the Muslim community
at large enjoys no authority to coerce the rejecting party or to enforce
Our judicial and political systems
encourage such reconciliation councils and committees where people can get
free and speedy justice. Such councils take the burden off normal courts
where millions of cases are pending and any case takes a decade or more to
be decided. Lok Adalats, panchayats and various arbitration and
adjudication councils and committees are playing this very role for the
benefit of the ordinary people.
According to my knowledge, only the
AIMPLB and Imarat-e Shar'iyah Bihar & Orissa have a few dozens of such
"Shariah courts" in some cities and towns. Other "darul
qazas" are local and autonomous bodies established by people in
various towns and villages. In any case these so-called "courts"
deal only with personal law issues, that is marriage, divorce and
inheritance and the like in which both parties are Muslim.
The current petition is on the same
lines as the one filed by Chandmal Chopra in the Calcutta High Court in
June 1985 to ban the Qur'an. It was thrown out with the contempt it
deserved. The fate of the current petition should not be different. It
will be a test of Indian democracy and secularism: can it be generous
enough to let its Muslim citizens continue to follow their personal laws
which is a right given by the Constitution and reiterated by all
governments since Independence. The image of India as a free, secular and
humane democracy hangs with this choice. «
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