India: Shariat courts protected under Muslim personal law

Human Rights Without Frontiers via WUNRN
The government has informed the Supreme Court that Muslims have a right to establish Shariat panchayats to settle disputes between two people and fatwas issued by these courts are not in conflict with or parallel to the Indian judicial system.
Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian stated this before a bench of judges A.R. Lakshmanan and Altamas Kabir hearing a petition from advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan seeking a direction to refrain the All India Muslim Personal Law Board from establishing a parallel Muslim judicial system (Nizam-e-Qaza) in the country.
Since most of the other respondents had not filed their responses to the petition, the bench adjourned the hearing by 12 weeks.

In his public interest petition, Madan submitted that a Muslim woman Imrana was allegedly raped by her father-in-law and the village panchayat passed a fatwa asking her to treat her father-in-law as her husband.

The Darul-Uloom also declared that Imrana could not live with her husband. This was endorsed by the AIMPLB. He sought a declaration that the fatwas pronounced by various authorities were unenforceable, to direct the central and state governments concerned to take steps to disband the Dar-ul-Qazas forthwith.

In its reply, the central government said "freedom guaranteed by Article 26 of the Constitution to every religious denomination or every section thereof to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes and to manage its own affairs in the matters of religion would include the freedom to establish Dar-ul-Qaza/Nizam-e-Qaza (Shariat panchayats) to settle disputes between two persons professing Islam, according to Shariat.”

It said these courts were not a parallel judicial system.

"Further Dar-ul-Qaza/Nizam-e-Qaza do not prevent Muslims to report matters to the judicial machinery set up under the law of the land. Those who do not want to resort to Dar-ul-Qaza are at liberty and fully entitled to resort to courts of law. There is no question of compelling anyone not to report matters to the judicial machinery. Dar-ul-Qaza and Nizam-e-Qaza are alternative dispute redressal forums without any enforcement power.

Seeking dismissal of the petition, the government said fatwas issued by the religious courts were only advisory in nature and did not compel anyone to follow them.

11 January 2007