Indian media: Supreme Court says 'no place for fatwa'

Media have closely covered the Supreme Court's "fatwa" case Image copyright AFP
Image caption Media have closely covered the Supreme Court's ruling on 'fatwa'

Media welcome Monday's ruling by India's Supreme Court that Sharia courts have no legal authority and their decisions are not binding.

They point out that the application of Sharia, a set of principles that govern the way many Muslims believe they should live their life, has long been a contentious issue in the country.

The Supreme Court said that fatwas, or Islamic religious decrees, have "no place in independent India", and must not violate the rights of individuals guaranteed by law.

The judges, however, refused to declare Dar-ul-Qazas (Islamic courts) or the practice of issuing fatwas as illegal, saying it was an informal justice delivery system and it was for the people concerned to accept, ignore or reject it.

"Sharia courts and religious edicts have begun to unfortunately function as a parallel legal system," says an editorial in The Pioneer.

It points out that the court ruling "marks a victory for all those who believe in the core principles of jurisprudence that govern this country's legal system and their equal application to all citizens irrespective of religious, race, caste and gender considerations".

The paper adds that the decision "will be of particular relief to Muslim women, especially those from economically weaker backgrounds", as they "have suffered the most under these Sharia courts which have routinely pronounced judgements that violate their fundamental rights".

The Indian Express agrees that "several Sharia court 'judgments' have been blatantly discriminatory against women".

It claims in an editorial, that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which administers the Islamic courts, "has increasingly sought to circumvent what it perceives to be judicial 'interference' in the application of Muslim personal laws".

"One cannot disagree with the SC [Supreme Court] that 'Religion cannot be allowed to be merciless... Faith cannot be used as a dehumanising force'," writes Satya Prakash in Hindustan Times.

The Times of India, however, reports that the court verdict was met with sharp reaction from Muslim clerics who said the Constitution allowed them the right to work and act according to Muslim personal law.

"We are not doing anything parallel to the judicial system and we don't say that any order passed by a Qazi is binding on all. Our sole motto is to resolve a matter with the consent of two parties involved in accordance with Sharia," Zafaryab Jilani, member of the Muslim Personal Law Board, tells the paper.

'Leader of the Opposition' controversy

Newspapers are reporting on a looming scandal in parliament surrounding the post of Leader of the Opposition.

Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi is insisting that the position should be taken by someone from her ranks, writes The Hindu.

"We are the single largest party [in opposition] and we have a pre-poll alliance. Hence, we are entitled to get the post of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha [lower house of parliament]," the daily quotes her as saying.

But according to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress does not have the required 10% of parliamentary seats to lay such a claim.

The Hindustan Times cautions the government that the issue has "all the ingredients of becoming a political controversy".

And finally, Delhi residents will soon get SMS alerts on their cell phones informing them about the price of onions and potatoes, the Hindustan Times reports.

It quotes the authorities as saying that the step is aimed at stopping sellers from charging too much for their vegetables.

"We have decided to send an official message to people about the rates. This will help them know if someone tries to overcharge," an official tells the paper.

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