SC defers hearing on PIL seeking entry of women in mosques across country

A group of muslim women at a market in the walled city area of Delhi. Photo: PTI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday deferred the hearing on a PIL seeking entry of Muslim women in mosques across the country, saying it was adjourning it for a "different reason".

A bench headed by CJI-designate Justice S A Bobde, who was part of the five- judge Constitution bench which has to deliver the verdict in the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case by November 17, adjourned the hearing on the sensitive PIL by 10 days without specifying reasons.

"We are adjourning for 10 days for a different reason," the bench, which also comprised justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari, said.

The bench said some of the parties have sought four weeks' time for filing their response to the PIL by Pune-based couple Yasmeen Zuber Ahmad Peerzade and Zuber Ahmad Nazir Ahmad Peerzade.

The PIL said that the ban on entry of Muslim women in mosques was "unconstitutional" and violative of fundamental rights to life, equality and gender justice.

Earlier, the apex court had asked the union ministries of Women and Child Welfare and Law and Justice and Minority Affairs and the National Commission for Women to file their responses to the plea by November 5, that is today.

It had also directed that the notices along with copies of the petition be served on the Maharashtra State Board of Wakf, Central Wakf Council and All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

The plea sought issuance of a direction to the government authorities and Muslim bodies to allow entry of Muslim women into mosques to offer namaz.

"Permit Muslim women to enter through the main door of mosques and have an Islamic right to visual and auditory access to the musalla (main sanctuary)," it said, adding that "any fatwa", restraining women from entering into mosques, of Muslim bodies be set aside.

It also said that the alleged customary tradition be held as "unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14 (right to equality), 15 (gender justice) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution".

Referring to constitutional provisions, the petitioners said there should not be any discrimination against any citizen of the country on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth.

They added that a life of dignity and equality is the most sacrosanct fundamental right and a Muslim woman cannot be prohibited from entering a mosque.

The petitioners had told the court that the mosques in India were enjoying the benefits and grant extended to them by the State and hence they can be directed to allow entry of women inside mosques.

While issuing the notice, the Supreme Court had earlier said that it would hear the PIL only because of its judgment in the Sabarimala temple case.

On September 28 last year, a five-judge constitution bench headed by the then chief justice Dipak Misra, in a 4:1 verdict, had paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, saying the ban amounted to gender discrimination.

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