Kazis, muftis have no official powers, SC told

New Delhi, Feb 25: The central government Tuesday told the Supreme Court that kazis and muftis in the Muslim community did not wield any administrative or judicial powers and just played a supplementary role of carrying out conciliation and mediation in matrimonial and civil disputes within the community.

Additional Solicitor General Paras Kuhad told a bench of Justice C.K.Prasad and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose that kazis and muftis are not judicial forums and their decisions are not enforceable.

“It is incorrect that to say that they are conferred with judicial or administrative powers. They are not supposed to carry out an administrative or judicial role,” he said.

Kuhad told the court that “as long as it is an expression of opinion (by the kazis and muftis), the state will not interfere but when it infringes the fundamental rights (of the people), the state will step in.”

The government’s response came on a plea by Vishwa Lochan Madan who wanted a curb on the activities of the kazis and muftis who, he said, pronounced fatwas which were in the nature of judicial pronouncement and thus constituted a parallel justice delivery system based on Shariat.

The court reserved its verdict on the plea.

Madan contended that kazis and muftis were running a parallel justice delivery system in the 50 to 60 Muslim high-density districts in the country and people were forced to submit to the dictates of the seminaries.

Those who defy the dictates of seminaries face various kinds of problems, he claimed.

He referred to a case in Muzaffarnagar where a Muslim girl was raped by her father-in-law and she was asked by the seminary to live with her tormentor and divorce her husband. Madan said that ignorant people follow their fatwas.

The court said that it was matter of personal belief. “People do believe that if they take Ganga Jal they will be cured. These are personal beliefs,” it said.

The court said that if someone is harassed for not following the (kazis’) dictates, then the court will protect him, but however, declined to interfere in the religious and political issues. “We don’t decide political and religious issues,” observed Justice Prasad.

“These institutions would lose their relevance in the course of time if they act like this,” the court said as Madan told the court that they even issue fatwas that women will not contest elections.

Urging the court not to interfere with the personal law, senior counsel Raju Ramachandran told the court that “personal law is an area where the courts have not entered unless there is a provision of an enacted law and it is argued that it is discriminatory”.

Ramachandran who appeared for the All India Muslim Personal Law Board told the court that kazis and muftis were not engaged in settling matrimonial and other small disputes in digression of civil courts dispensing justice.

As and when some disputes reaches them, they first ascertain if it was not already pending before the civil court and make it clear that either parties to dispute can come before them or continue with litigation in court, Ramachandran told the court.