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

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Live - - FRONT PAGE - Aye­sha Arvind

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.

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