A fatwa issued by Muslim clerics cannot be forced upon people and the state has to protect persons who are harassed for not following such dictates, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday while expressing reservation in interfering with Shariat courts.
Holding that it's a matter of choice for the people to accept a fatwa or not, the apex court said the running of institutions like Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa is a religious issue and the courts should interfere only when someone's rights are violated by their decision.
"We can protect people who are subjected to suffering due to this. When a pujari gives a date of Dusshera, he cannot force someone to celebrate the festival on that day. If somebody forces them on you, then we can protect you," a bench, headed by Justice C K Prasad, said after the petitioner pleaded that fatwa issued by clerics is unconstitutional.
It said a fatwa issued by clerics or predictions made by pandits do not violate any law and so courts should restrain them from doing so.
"Which law gives power to issue a fatwa and which statute gives a pandit power to make a horoscope? The court can only say that the state will protect the people if one is subjected to suffering due to a fatwa," the bench said adding some fatwas may be issued for the welfare of the people.
"These are political and religious issues and we do not want to go into it," the bench said while hearing a public interest litigation filed by an advocate Vishwa Lochan Madam challenging the constitutional validity of Shariat courts for allegedly running a parallel judicial system in the country.
The All India Personal Law Board submitted that a fatwa is not binding on people and it is just an opinion of a mufti and he has no power and authority to implement it.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the board, submitted if a fatwa is sought to be implemented against the wish of the concerned person, then he can approach a court of law against it.
The petitioner submitted the fundamental rights of Muslims could not be controlled and curtailed through fatwas issued by qazis and muftis appointed by Muslim organisations.
Image: The SC also expressed reservations to interfere with Shariat courts