Bombay High Court on 26 August 2016 ruled that women should be permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali Dargah set in the heart of Mumbai.
The 15th century dargah of the Sufi saint, Haji Ali Shah, is located on an islet off the coast of Worli in the southern part of Mumbai.
A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere in its 56-page judgement said that a ban imposed by the Haji Ali Dargah Trust on women entering the sanctum sanctorum contravenes their fundamental rights and must be lifted.
Highlights of the Judgement
• The court said that the ban on entry of women inside Haji Ali Dargah violates their fundamental right to practice any religion.
• Rebuking the Dargah Trust, the court said it has no right to discriminate entry of women into a public place of worship under the guise of 'managing the affairs of religion'.
• It refused to accept the claims that allowing women in close proximity to the grave of male Muslim saint was a sin in Islam.
• It also refused to accept that the ban was imposed to prevent sexual harassment of women.
• The court in its judgement also highlighted few constitutional provisions that give equal rights to all faith practitioners (men and women) to profess and practice whatever they wish as per their religious dictates. Articles used in the judgment include
The bench asked the Dargah Trust to take effective steps like having separate queues for men and women as was done before. It also added that the state government is also duty bound to ensure safety of women at such places.
The judgement was passed on public interest litigation (PIL) filed by filed by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a Muslim women's rights group based in Mumbain and several other women activists urging the court to lift restrictions imposed on entry of women in the dargah by the Haji Ali Dargah Trust. Noorjehan Safia Niaz and Zakia Soman are the founders of BMMA.
However, the court has stayed its order for six weeks following a plea by the Dargah Trust, which wants to challenge this decision in the Supreme Court.
The Haji Ali trustees, who banned entry of women into the mausoleum in 2012, were the first so-called Sufi followers in India to bar women from the spiritual tradition of shrine visitation.
In February 2016, Maharashtra Government said to the Bombay High Court that women should be allowed to allowed to enter the inner sanctum till the Daragh Board in not able to prove that ban is part of their religious practice with reference to Quran.
Earlier in April 2016, the Bombay high court passed a similar ruling lifting ban on women’s entry to the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The Trust of the temple imposed the ban on the basis of a 400-year-old tradition which proclaimed against women entering the inner sanctum of Lord Shani temple. The trust allowed women to enter the temple within a week of the order of the court.
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Who: Haji Ali Dargah
When: 26 August 2016