Give Full Access To Women to Haji Ali Dargah: Mumbai HC

Mumbai: Mumbai High Court has stated that the ban imposed on giving women a full access into dargah is clashing with the fundamental rights of a person as provided in the Constitution. HC also said that women should be permitted inside the Haji Ali Dargah along with men, and Maharashtra Government should ensure their safety.

Women have the right to enter the core or sacred place of Mumbai’s famous Haji Ali shrine, Bombay High Court has ruled. 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, women cannot avail the order just yet, the trust that runs the shrine wants to appeal the decision in the SC, so today’s verdict is put on hold for the next
6 weeks.

The three articles 14, 15 and 21 are related to equality to all, no gender discrimination based on religion and right to life and liberty. Bombay High Court held the ban as unconstitutional and violation of these 3 article.

The trustees of the 15th century Shrine say it would be a grievous sin for women to be allowed near the tomb of the Sufi saint housed within the Mosque. 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.”

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. 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. They imposed the ban 5 years ago and were taken to court by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) which is a Muslim women’s rights group. They have been backed by the state government.

The Haji Ali mosque, built on an islet about 500 metres from the coast, can only be reached at low tide and draws tens of thousands of worshippers.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has spoken out against discrimination in worship and said tradition must accommodate change. “Aren’t sufi saints born to women?” asked Bibi Khatoon, a leader of the organization that fought the ban.

Today’s court order bolsters a nationwide campaign to allow women entry to all places of worship. Earlier this year, women won the right to full access of Maharashtra’s famous Shani Shingnapur temple, dedicated to Saturn or Shani.

The fight to allow women into the shrine gained momentum after a petition was lodged with the Supreme Court demanding access for women to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

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