Women can enter Haji Ali dargah sanctum, high court quashes ban
Court says keeping women out violation of fundamental rights, allows six weeks for appeal
MUMBAI: The Bombay high court delivered a landmark judgement on Friday, striking down a ban on women from entering the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali dargah. The court ordered the Haji Ali Dargah Trust to ensure that women worshippers are granted access to all parts of the shrine “at par with men”.
Holding that the ban – in place since 2012 – violated fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, and 25 of the Constitution, the court said that the trust’s primary argument – that it had an unencumbered right to manage religious affairs – was “misconceived” as it could “not override the citizens’ right to practice religion”.
The bench, however, stayed the implementation of its order for six weeks to allow for an appeal. The trust said it will appeal against the verdict. Suhail Khandwani, a businessman and member of the trust, said Sharia (Islamic law) prohibited women from touching the tomb. “The court says you have to treat everyone equally but the Constitution also says that the right of every religion has to be protected,” said Khandwani.
The verdict came in response to a public interest litigation filed by Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz from the nonprofit Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).
In June 2012, when a group of women from BMMA visited the shrine, they were prevented from entering the inner sanctum, which houses the tomb.
Members of the trust told them that the rules had changed and women were no longer allowed to enter it and touch the tomb. They were told they could only offer prayers from afar.
A division bench comprising Justice VM Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere delivered the judgement in a packed courtroom.
Activists celebrate the verdict in Mumbai on Friday.