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Bombay High Court lifts ban on women’s entry into Haji Ali

The Bombay High Court held the ban on the entry of women in the inner sanctorum of the Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai as unconstitutional and violative of article 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution of India, on Friday. The three articles relate to equality to all no gender discrimination based on religion and right to life and liberty.

A division bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite Dhere asked the Maharashtra government to implement this order allowing the entry of woman. However, since the trust sought for time to challenge the order in the Supreme Court, the High Court stayed its order for six weeks. The court has asked the state to give necessary protection to the respondents.

The ban was imposed in 2012 by the Haji Ali Dargah Trust citing some religious traditions as the reason. Two women, Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz had filed the PIL challenging the ban on entry of woman. The PIL states that gender justice is inherent in Quran and the decision contravenes the Hadiths, which proves that there is no prohibition on women visiting graves.

The state government has told the court that women should be barred from entering the inner sanctorum of Haji Ali Dargah only if it is so enshrined in the Quran. The ban on women’s entry cannot be justified if it is on the basis of an expert’s interpretation of the Quran, argued advocate general Shrihari Aney.

On whether the court can interfere in the customs and traditions of a religion, Aney said: “If the religion (Islam) is going to fall if women are allowed entry, then the ban should prevail over fundamental rights.”

The dargah trust defended its stand saying that it is referred in Quran that allowing women close proximity to the dargah of a male saint is a grievous sin. Advocate Shoaib Memon said: “Women are not allowed inside mosques in Saudi Arabia. They are given a separate place to pray. We (trust) have not barred women. It is simply regulated for their safety. The trust not only administers the dargah but also manages the affairs of religion.

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