In a significant judgment, the Bombay High Court today lifted the ban imposed on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali dargah here, saying it contravenes the fundamental rights of a person.
A division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere said the ban order by the Haji Ali Dargah Trust contravenes Article 14 (equality before law within India), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, sex), 19 (1)(d) (to move freely throughout the territory of India) and 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propogation of religion) of the Indian Constitution.
The court has, however, stayed its order for six weeks following a plea by Haji Ali dargah trust, which wants to challenge it in the Supreme Court.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Noor Jahan of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan in November 2014. The PIL states that women were going to the dargah since childhood, and suddenly in June 2012, the Trust restricted the entry of women to the sanctum of the dargah.
Earlier, the trustees of the dargah told the court that entry of women in close proximity to the grave of a male Muslim saint is considered a grievous sin in Islam. The existing arrangement provides for a secure place for women to offer prayers. "This has been decided in the interest of women and they are close to the inner sanctorum of the tomb as far as possible."
"The State Government and the Haji Ali Dargah Trust will have to take proper steps to ensure safety and security of women entering the dargah,” the court said.
The High Court had in June this year reserved its verdict on the petition.
Haji Rafat, MIM of the Haji Ali Dargah, said the high court should not have interfered in the issue. The trust will now approach the Supreme Court, he said.
The Maharashtra government had batted for women saying that they cannot be banned inside the inner sanctum unless it is shown that banning them is integral to Islam. Advocate general Shreehari Aney argued that if the trust says it has a fundamental right to manage its religious affairs, then it has to be weighed against Articles 14 (Right to Equality) and 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) of the Constitution.