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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

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Islamic Court Review in 4 weeks

 

The Supreme Court (SC) granted four extra weeks to the Government to collect data on the presence of Islamic and Shariat courts, their roles, and implications on the judicial system.  A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) from Advocate Vishwa Lochan Madan cited several examples of Islamic courts pronouncing fatwas (religious decree) on mainline issues. Madan is asking for the dissolution of these courts.

Recently, the Deoband-based seminary Darul-Uloom passed a controversial verdict on the rape case of Imrana by her father-in-law and the All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMLB) was wishy-washy on that decree. The petitioner claimed that Islamic clerics were interfering in criminal law administration. He also cited several references where the AIMLB claimed setting up Darul Qaza (Muslim courts) in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, South and East Delhi, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh.

 

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government is in quandary from multiple perspectives. Firstly, the Congress Party has been weakened substantially in many states and except Delhi, cannot claim a stronghold in any part of the nation. Therefore, any action that will be seen as anti-Muslim will further erode their traditional Muslim vote-bank. Secondly, the Government is already under immense pressure from Islamic leaders and clerics in the nation for several extra-regional issues such as the Dutch cartoons and India's anti-Iran vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Government is nervous of inciting more anti-Government feelings if they should try reforming the judicial system. Thirdly, India will have state-level elections in many states where Muslims are in large numbers. A politically inept move may destroy Congress's slim chance of garnering many seats. This will make its continuance of its policies or even in power that much harder.

A group of Islamic clerics and leaders had met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding that neither the Government nor the courts should "interfere" with Islamic courts. Besides, they have major support from regional politicians with no agendas other than usurping power. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister supported the verdict on the Imrana rape case saying that "the religious leaders are all very learned and they understand the Muslim community and their sentiments." He supported the verdict saying that "the decision of the Muslim religious leaders must have been taken after a lot of thought."

The central issue is not the qualification of the Muslim leaders or their ability to pass judgments. The issue is whether the presence of parallel courts and justice system is allowed under the Indian Constitution and if so what is the impact on India's secular system. Secularism is where religion is not a considered premise when dealing with education, administration, and justice. Unfortunately, in India, secularism has been confused with religious freedom and rights of minorities. Hence, there are separate laws based on religion for Hindus, Muslims, and Christians governing different aspects of marriage, divorce, property, and social behavior.

The new confusion created by politicians is whether there should be a parallel criminal justice system. It then follows whether there should be religion-based police, education systems, administration, financial, and social systems. If so, in case of conflict of laws between two communities what should be the arbitration be process?

The presence of parallel courts creates a country within a country, is divisive of people, and ghettos for people to live in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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