A Judicial Leg-up for Clarity on Fatwa Raj

Published: 09th July 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th July 2014 11:35 PM   |  A+A-

The Supreme Court has set at rest all speculations and claims about the fatwas issued by various institutions like Dar-ul-Qaza and individual clerics. They have absolutely no legal validity. Nor is anyone to be judged in accordance with the sharia because only courts set up under the Constitution have the authority to hear criminal and civil cases. The court has clarified that a fatwa should not be issued against anyone if he has not sought it. Of course, religious bodies and persons can give their opinion on issues concerning individuals and society if it is sought. The fatwa can at best be considered an advice which the people concerned can accept or reject.

The ruling also bars religious leaders issuing the fatwa, even when it is sought, from enforcing it on anyone using coercion. The verdict shows that anyone who uses the stratagem of fatwa for his own selfish motives is liable to be punished. Nor can anyone justify an illegal act on the basis of a fatwa. It had become common for some institutions and individuals to declare fatwas on a variety of issues, some of which are contradictory to one another. Instead of elucidation, they create confusion.

Notwithstanding the verdict, there is certainly a need for informal, extra-judicial institutions to settle minor disputes and differences. Religious leaders can and do play a role in helping the faithful reach settlements. Whatever be their names, village councils have from time immemorial heard petty cases and given their verdicts which are always honoured. It is a different matter that some such bodies like the khap panchayats of Haryana have on occasions taken the law into their own hands. Given the huge backlog of cases, the judicial system would certainly welcome if cases, which do not involve serious questions of law, are handled by such bodies. The verdict will, hopefully, ensure they don’t contravene the laws of the land.

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