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HC order on women’s entry in Mumbai Durgah after SC verdict on Sabarimala

Bombay High Court

Mumbai : The Bombay High Court today said it would wait for Supreme Court’s ruling on entry of women in Sabarimala temple of Kerala before deciding on a similar plea in case of Haji Ali Durgah here.

A bench of Justices V M Kanade and Reveti Mohite-Dere was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the decision of Haji Ali Trust to ban the entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of the historic Durgah.

The judges said both the matters were similar involving entry of women in the religious shrines, and hence they would like to see what view would Supreme Court take on the issue before they give a ruling on the interim relief sought by the petitioner in the Bombay High Court.

The petition had sought interim relief by way of allowing women to enter the sanctum sanctorum at Haji Ali Durgah until the matter is finally decided by the court.

The HC also asked Advocate General Srihari Aney to submit arguments on the next occasion in this case involving a ‘sensitive’ issue, while posting the matter on February 3.

In the Supreme Court, a petition has sought entry for all women and girls in the Sabarimala temple which, as a practice, does not allow girls after attaining puberty to enter the premises. The temple, however, allows only those women to enter who have reached the menopause stage.

The apex court had on January 11 questioned the age-old tradition of banning entry of women of menstrual age group in the Kerala temple, saying this cannot be done under the Constitution.

“The temple cannot prohibit entry (women), except on the basis of religion. Unless you have a constitutional right, you cannot prohibit entry. Anyway, we will examine it on February 8,” the Supreme Court had observed last week.

A SC bench also observed that Sabarimala was a public temple and everyone needed to have “the right to access”. At best, there can be religious restrictions and not a general restriction, the apex court had observed.

In the HC, a petition has raised a similar issue — that of ban imposed on entry of women in sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali Durgah. It prohibits women irrespective of their age.

The trustees of Haji Ali Dargah had told the HC earlier that entry of women in close proximity to the grave of a male Muslim saint is considered as a grievous sin in Islam.

The HC had then asked the trustees to reconsider their decision, following which the Trust met and reconsidered their decision while taking the same view of banning entry of women in the Durgah.

The Haji Ali Trust argued that the bar on entry is meant to protect women from “uncomfortable situations” and is restricted only to the sanctum sanctorum.

The petitioners, however, claimed that gender justice is inherent in Quran and the norm at the Dargah contravenes the Hadiths, which say that women are not prohibited from visiting tombs.

The restriction emanates from “a very conservative and extremist Salafi ideology” and in future “there may be an order banning the entry of women in the Durgah complex and banning the non-Muslims wholly,” the petition argued.

Raju Moray, the petitioners’ lawyer, contended that at other Durgahs or shrines women are not banned.

Women can enter the sanctum sanctorum at the historic Makhdoom Shah Durgah in suburban Mahim, he noted.

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