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HC allows women's entry in Haji Ali dargah's sanctum sanctorum

HC allows women

Mumbai: In a landmark judgement, the Bombay High Court today lifted the ban imposed on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali Dargah here, saying it contravenes fundamental rights and that the trust has no right to prohibit women's entry into a public place of worship. "We hold that the ban imposed by the Dargah Trust, prohibiting women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah contravenes Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution of India. Women should be permitted to enter the the sanctum sanctorum at par with men," a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere said. Under these Articles, a person has the fundamental right to practice any religion he or she wants. They prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion, gender and so on, and provide freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. The court has, however, stayed its order for six weeks following a plea by Haji Ali Dargah Trust, which wants to challenge it in the Supreme Court. The bench allowed a PIL filed by two women, Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz, from NGO Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, challenging the ban on women's entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah from 2012. "The state government and the Haji Ali Dargah Trust will have to take proper steps to ensure safety and security of women at the said place of worship," the court said. The bench held that the trust has no power to alter or modify the mode or manner of religious practices of any individual or any group. It also noted that the "right to manage the Trust cannot override the right to practice religion itself". "The trust has no right to discriminate entry of women into a public place of worship under the guise of 'managing the affairs of religion' under Article 26 and as such, the state will have to ensure protection of rights of all its citizens guaranteed under the Constitution, including Articles 14 and 15, to protect against discrimination based on gender," the court said in its 56-page judgement. The court refused to accept the arguments of the trust that allowing women in close proximity to the grave of male Muslim saint was sin in Islam. The trust had also quoted and submitted certain verses from the Quran to support its claim. "Simply making the aforesaid statement and quoting verses are not sufficient, more particularly, when women were being permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum up to 2012. There is nothing in any of the aforesaid verses which shows that Islam does not permit entry of women at all, into a dargah/mosque and that their entry was sinful in Islam," the court said.

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