SC: Fatwa or diktat lack legal sanction


Court :
Supreme Court of India

Brief :
The Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices Chandramauli Kr. Prasad and Pinaki Chandra Ghose ruled that no Dar-ul-Qazas or any institution by any name, shall give verdict or issue Fatwa touching upon the rights, status and obligation, of an individual unless such an individual has asked for it. Further, it added that such an adjudication or Fatwa does not have a force of law and, therefore, cannot be enforced by any process using coercive method and any person trying to enforce that by any method shall be illegal and dealt with in accordance with law.

Citation :
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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 386 OF 2005

VISHWA LOCHAN MADAN ..... PETITIONER 

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ORS.        .... RESPONDENTS

J U D G M E N T

Chandramauli Kr. Prasad

REPORTABLE

All India Muslim Personal Law Board comprises 

of Ulemas.  Ulema is a body of Muslim scholars 

recognised  as  expert  in  Islamic  sacred  law  and 

theology.  It is the assertion of the petitioner 

that  All  India  Muslim  Personal  Law  Board 

(hereinafter referred to as ‘the Board’) strives 

for the establishment of parallel judicial system 

in  India  as  in  its  opinion  it  is  extremely 

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difficult for Muslim women to get justice in the 

prevalent  judicial  system.   Further,  under  the 

pressure of expensive and protracted litigation it 

has become very difficult for the downtrodden and 

weaker  section  of  the  society  to  get  justice. 

Therefore, to avail the laws of Shariat, according 

to  the  Board,  establishment  of  Islamic  judicial 

system  has  become  necessary.  According  to  the 

petitioner,  the  Board,  Imarra-e-Sharia  of 

different  States  and  Imarra-e-Sharia,  Phulwari 

Shariff have established Dar-ul-Qazas, spread all 

over the country.  Camps are being organised to 

train Qazis and Naib Qazis to administer justice 

according to Shariat. Dar-ul-Qaza and Nizam-e-Qaza 

are interchangeable terms.  It is the allegation 

of  the  petitioner  that  Dar-ul-Qazas,  spread  all 

over  the  country  are  functioning  as  parallel 

judicial  system  aimed  to  administer  justice  to 

Muslims  living  in  this  country  according  to 

Shariat i.e. Islamic Canonical Law based on the 

teachings of the Quoran and the traditions of the 

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Prophet.  What perhaps prompted the petitioner to 

file this writ petition is the galore of obnoxious 

Fatwas including a Fatwa given by Dar-ul-Uloom of 

Deoband in relation to Imrana’s incident.  Imrana, 

a  28  years  old  Muslim  woman,  mother  of  five 

children was allegedly raped by her father-in-law. 

The question arose about her marital status and 

those  of  her  children  born  in  the  wedlock  with 

rapist’s son.  The Fatwa of Dar-ul-Uloom in this 

connection reads as follows:

“If one raped his son’s wife

and  it  is  proved  through

witnesses,  or  the  rapist  himself

confesses it, Haram Musaharat will

be proved.  It means that the wife

of  the  son  will  become  unlawful

forever to him i.e. the son.  The

woman  with  whom  father  has

copulated  legally  or  had  sexual

intercourse  illegally  in  both

ways, the son can’t keep physical

relationship with her.  The Holy

Quran says:

“Marry  not  the  woman  whom  your

father copulated”

The  Fatwa  has  dissolved  the  marriage  and 

passed  a  decree  for  perpetual  injunction 

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restraining the husband and wife living together, 

though none of them ever approached the Dar-ul-

Uloom.  

Another Fatwa of which our attention is drawn 

rules that no police report can be filed against 

the  father-in-law  of  Asoobi,  who  had  allegedly 

raped her.  According to the Fatwa, father-in-law 

could have been blamed only if there had either 

been a witness to the case or the victim’s husband 

had  endorsed  Asoobi’s  allegation.   Yet  another 

Fatwa, which has been brought to our notice is in 

connection with Jatsonara, a 19 year old Muslim 

woman, who was asked to accept the rapist father-

in-law  as  her  real  husband  and  divorce  her 

husband.

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Petitioner alleges that all these Fatwas have 

the support of All India Muslim Personal Law Board 

and  it  is  striving  for  the  establishment  of 

parallel  Muslim  judicial  system  in  India. 

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According  to  the  petitioner,  adjudication  of 

disputes is essentially the function of sovereign 

State,  which  can  never  be  abdicated  or 

parted with.  

5

In  the  aforesaid  background,  the  petitioner 

has  sought  a  declaration  that  the  movement/ 

activities  being  pursued  by  All  India  Muslim 

Personal Law Board and other similar organizations 

for  establishment  of  Muslim  Judicial  System  and 

setting  up  of  Dar-ul-Qazas  (Muslim  Courts)  and 

Shariat  Court  in  India  are  absolutely  illegal, 

illegitimate  and  unconstitutional.   Further 

declaration sought for is that the judgments and 

fatwas pronounced by authorities have no place in 

the Indian Constitutional system, and the same are 

unenforceable  being  wholly  non-est  and  void  ab-

initio.  Petitioner further seeks direction to the 

Union  of  India  and  the  States  concerned  to 

forthwith  take  effective  steps  to  disband  and 

diffuse  all  Dar-ul-Qazas  and  the  Shariat  Courts 

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and to ensure that the same do not function to 

adjudicate  any  matrimonial-disputes  under  the 

Muslim Personal Law.  Petitioner’s prayer further 

is to restrain the respondents from establishing a 

parallel  Muslim  Judicial  System,  inter-meddling 

with the marital status of Indian Muslims and to 

pass  any  judgments,  remarks  or  fatwas  and  from 

deciding the matrimonial dispute amongst Muslims. 

Lastly the prayer of the petitioner is to direct 

the  All  India  Muslim  Personal  Law  Board 

(Respondent No.9), Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband, and other 

Dar-ul-Ulooms  in  the  country,  not  to  train  or 

appoint Qazis, Naib-Qazis or Mufti for rendering 

any judicial services of any kind.

The stand of the Union of India is that Fatwas 

are advisory in nature and no Muslim is bound to 

follow  those.   Further,  Dar-ul-Qaza  does  not 

administer  criminal  justice  and  it  really 

functions as an arbitrator, mediator, negotiator 

or  conciliator  in  matters  pertaining  to  family 

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dispute  or  any  other  dispute  of  civil  nature 

between the Muslims.  According to the Union of 

India,  Dar-ul-Qaza  can  be  perceived  as  an 

alternative  dispute  resolution  mechanism,  which 

strives  to  settle  disputes  outside  the  courts 

expeditiously  in  an  amicable  and  inexpensive 

manner and, in fact, have no power or authority to 

enforce its orders and, hence, it cannot be termed 

as  either  in  conflict  with  or  parallel  to  the 

Indian Judicial System.  The Union of India has 

not  denied  that  Fatwas  as  alleged  by  the 

petitioner were not issued but its plea is that 

they were not issued by any of the Dar-ul-Qaza. 

In any event, according to the Union of India, few 

bad examples may not justify abolition of system, 

which otherwise is found useful and effective.

Respondent No.9, All India Muslim Personal law 

Board does not deny the allegations that it had 

established  Dar-ul-Qazas  and  training  Qazis  and 

Naib Qazis and the practice of issuing Fatwas but 

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asserts  that  Dar-ul-Qaza/Nizam-e-Qazas  are  not 

parallel  judicial  systems  established  in 

derogation of or in conflict with the recognised 

judicial system.  It is informal justice delivery 

system aimed to bring about amicable settlement of 

matrimonial  disputes  between  the  parties. 

According to this respondent, Dar-ul-Qazas have no 

authority,  means  or  force  to  get  their  Fatwas 

implemented  and  the  writ  petition  is  based  on 

ignorance  and/or  misconception  that  they  are 

parallel courts or judicial system.

Respondent No.10, Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband admits 

issuing  Fatwa  in  Imrana’s  case  as  per  Fiqah-e-

Hanafi, which is based on Quaran and Hadith but 

asserts that it has no agency or powers to enforce 

its Fatwas.  It is within the discretion of the 

persons or the parties who obtain Fatwas to abide 

by it or not.  However, according to Respondent 

No.10, God fearing Muslims being answerable to the 

Almighty, obey the Fatwas, others may defy them. 

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In  the  aforesaid  background,  the  plea  of 

Respondent  No.  10  is  that  it  is  not  running 

parallel judiciary.

The plea of the State of Madhya Pradesh is 

that  Fatwa  issued  by  Dar-ul-Qaza  has  no  legal 

value.  

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The stand of the State of U.P. is that Fatwas 

are advisory in nature.  They are not mandatory 

and do not prohibit any Muslim to approach Courts 

established  by  law  for  adjudication  of  their 

disputes.  Hence, Dar-ul-Qaza does not act as a 

parallel Court for adjudication of disputes.

From the pleadings of the parties there does 

not seem to be any dispute that several Dar-ul-

Qazas presided over by the Qazis exist and they do 

issue Fatwas. In the present case, what we have 

been called upon to examine as to whether Dar-ul-

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Qaza is a parallel court and ‘Fatwa’ has any legal 

status.

10

As it is well settled, the adjudication by a 

legal authority sanctioned by law is enforceable 

and binding and meant to be obeyed unless upset by 

an authority provided by law itself.  The power to 

adjudicate  must  flow  from  a  validly  made  law. 

Person deriving benefit from the adjudication must 

have  the  right  to  enforce  it  and  the  person 

required  to  make  provision  in  terms  of 

adjudication has to comply that and on its failure 

consequences  as  provided  in  law  is  to  ensue. 

These are the fundamentals of any legal judicial 

system.  In our opinion, the decisions of Dar-ul-

Qaza  or  the  Fatwa  do  not  satisfy  any  of  these 

requirements. Dar-ul-Qaza is neither created nor 

sanctioned  by  any  law  made  by  the  competent 

legislature.  Therefore, the opinion or the Fatwa 

issued by Dar-ul-Qaza or for that matter anybody 

is  not  adjudication  of  dispute  by  an  authority 

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under a judicial system sanctioned by law.  A Qazi 

or Mufti has no authority or powers to impose his 

opinion and enforce his Fatwa on any one by any 

coercive  method.   In  fact,  whatever  may  be  the 

status of Fatwa during Mogul or British Rule, it 

has  no  place  in  independent  India  under  our 

Constitutional  scheme.  It  has  no  legal  sanction 

and  can  not  be  enforced  by  any  legal  process 

either  by  the  Dar-ul-Qaza  issuing  that  or  the 

person concerned or for that matter anybody.  The 

person or the body concerned may ignore it and it 

will not be necessary for anybody to challenge it 

before  any  court  of  law.   It  can  simply  be 

ignored.   In  case  any  person  or  body  tries  to 

impose it, their act would be illegal.  Therefore, 

the grievance of the petitioner that Dar-ul-Qazas 

and Nizam-e-Qaza are running a parallel judicial 

system is misconceived.

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As observed earlier, the Fatwa has no legal 

status  in  our  Constitutional  scheme. 

Page 11

Notwithstanding  that  it  is  an  admitted  position 

that Fatwas have been issued and are being issued. 

All  India  Muslim  Personal  Law  Board  feels  the 

“necessity  of  establishment  of  a  network  of 

judicial system throughout the country and Muslims 

should be made aware that they should get their 

disputes decided by the Quazis”.  According to the 

All  India  Muslim  Personal  Law  Board  “this 

establishment may not have the police powers but 

shall have the book of Allah in hand and sunnat of 

the Rasool and all decisions should be according 

to the Book and the Sunnat.  This will bring the 

Muslims  to  the  Muslim  Courts.   They  will 

get justice”.

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The object of establishment of such a court 

may be laudable but we have no doubt in our mind 

that it has no legal status.  It is bereft of any 

legal pedigree and has no sanction in laws of the 

land.  They are not part of the  corpus juris of 

the State.  A Fatwa is an opinion, only an expert 

is  expected  to  give.   It  is  not  a  decree,  not 

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binding  on  the  court  or  the  State  or  the 

individual.   It  is  not  sanctioned  under  our 

constitutional scheme. But this does not mean that 

existence  of  Dar-ul-Qaza  or  for  that  matter 

practice of issuing Fatwas are themselves illegal. 

It  is  informal  justice  delivery  system  with  an 

objective  of  bringing  about  amicable  settlement 

between the parties.  It is within the discretion 

of the persons concerned either to accept, ignore 

or reject it.  However, as the Fatwa gets strength 

from the religion; it causes serious psychological 

impact  on  the  person  intending  not  to  abide  by 

that.   As  projected  by  respondent  No.  10  “God 

fearing Muslims obey the Fatwas”.  In the words of 

respondent No. 10 “it is for the persons/parties 

who  obtain  Fatwa  to  abide  by  it  or  not.   It, 

however, emphasises that “the persons who are God 

fearing and believe that they are answerable to 

the Almighty and have to face the consequences of 

their  doings/deeds,  such  are  the  persons,  who 

submit to the Fatwa”.  Imrana’s case is an eye-

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opener  in  this  context.   Though  she  became  the 

victim of lust of her father in law, her marriage 

was declared unlawful and the innocent husband was 

restrained from keeping physical relationship with 

her.   In  this  way  a  declaratory  decree  for 

dissolution of marriage and decree for perpetual 

injunction were passed.  Though neither the wife 

nor the husband had approached for any opinion, an 

opinion was sought for and given at the instance 

of a journalist, a total stranger.  In this way, 

victim has been punished.  A country governed by 

rule of law cannot fathom it.  

In our opinion, one may not object to issuance 

of Fatwa on a religious issue or any other issue 

so long it does not infringe upon the rights of 

individuals guaranteed under law.  Fatwa may be 

issued  in  respect  of  issues  concerning  the 

community at large at the instance of a stranger 

but if a Fatwa is sought by a complete stranger on 

an issue not concerning the community at large but 

individual, than the Darul-Qaza or for that matter 

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anybody  may  consider  the  desirability  of  giving 

any response and while considering it should not 

be completely unmindful of the motivation behind 

the Fatwa.  Having regard to the fact that a Fatwa 

has the potential of causing immense devastation, 

we feel impelled to add a word of caution.   We 

would like to advise the Dar-ul-Qaza or for that 

matter anybody not to give any response or issue 

Fatwa concerning an individual, unless asked for 

by the person involved or the person having direct 

interest in the matter.  However, in a case the 

person involved or the person directly interested 

or likely to be affected being incapacitated, by 

any  person  having  some  interest  in  the  matter. 

Issuance of Fatwa on rights, status and obligation 

of individual Muslim, in our opinion, would not be 

permissible,  unless  asked  for  by  the  person 

concerned or in case of incapacity, by the person 

interested.  Fatwas touching upon the rights of an 

individual at the instance of rank strangers may 

cause irreparable damage and therefore, would be 

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absolutely uncalled for.  It shall be in violation 

of  basic  human  rights.   It  cannot  be  used  to 

punish  innocent.   No  religion  including  Islam 

punishes the innocent.  Religion cannot be allowed 

to  be  merciless  to  the  victim.  Faith  cannot  be 

used as dehumanising force.

In the light of what we have observed above, 

the  prayer  made  by  the  petitioner  in  the  terms 

sought for cannot be granted.  However, we observe 

that no Dar-ul-Qazas or for that matter, any body 

or institution by any name, shall give verdict or 

issue Fatwa touching upon the rights, status and 

obligation,  of  an  individual  unless  such  an 

individual  has  asked  for  it.  In  the  case  of 

incapacity  of  such  an  individual,  any  person 

interested in the welfare of such person may be 

permitted  to  represent  the  cause  of  concerned 

individual.   In  any  event,  the  decision  or  the 

Fatwa issued by whatever body being not emanating 

from any judicial system recognised by law, it is 

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not binding on anyone including the person, who 

had asked for it.  Further, such an adjudication 

or  Fatwa  does  not  have  a  force  of  law  and, 

therefore, cannot be enforced by any process using 

coercive  method.   Any  person  trying  to  enforce 

that by any method shall be illegal and has to be 

dealt with in accordance with law.

From the conspectus of what we have observed 

above, we dispose off the writ petition with the 

observation aforesaid, but without any order as to 

the costs.

   ………………………………………………………………J

   (CHANDRAMAULI KR. PRASAD)

   ………………………………………………………………J

                (PINAKI CHANDRA GHOSE)

NEW DELHI,

July 7, 2014. 

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Vineet Kumar
on 08 July 2014
Published in Constitutional Law
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