Tuesday, July 08, 2014

India's Supreme Court Rules Sharia Courts Legal As Advisory Bodies, But Should Not Issue Rulings Unless Requested By Party Affected

In Madan v. Union of India, (India Sup. Ct., July 7, 2014), petitioner challenged the legality of Muslim Sharia Courts set up around the country and supported by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.  The suit was filed after publicity about a case in which a Muslim Court ruled that a married woman who was raped by her father-in-law could no longer remain married to the son. The Fatwah in the case was apparently issued without its being requested by any of the parties immediately involved.  A 2-judge panel of India's Supreme Court refused to order Muslim courts dissolved, saying:
A Qazi or Mufti has no authority or powers to impose his opinion and enforce his Fatwa on any one by any coercive method.... It has no legal sanction and can not be enforced by any legal process.... The person or the body concerned may ignore it ....
However the court was troubled by Fatwas issued at the behest of third parties, saying that they create "serious psychological impact" on the person who chooses to ignore them.  Therefore, it ruled that Muslim courts should not issue Fatwas affecting the rights, status or obligation of an individual unless that person has asked for a ruling. AP reports on the decision.