The Centre today told the Supreme Court that it supported the petition opposing the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra agreed to hear on July 30 the plea filed by Delhi-based lawyer Sunita Tiwari and asked the parties to file their written submissions.
The bench also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud asked the parties to advance arguments on the plea and on the aspect as to whether it can also be referred to a Constitution bench.
"I am supporting the petitioner. They can begin their arguments on Monday," Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the court.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said that he was seeking to intervene on behalf of some scholars and doctors who wanted to oppose the age-old practice of genital mutilation of minor girls in the community
Appearing for a Muslim group, senior advocate AM Singhvi had said during an earlier hearing that the matter be referred to a constitution bench as it pertained to the issue of essential practice of the religion which needed to be examined.
He had said that the practice of female genital mutilation was a religious and customary practice and the courts should not intervene in this area.
The top court had on July 9 questioned the practice of female genital mutilation of minor girls in the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community, saying it violates the bodily "integrity" of a girl child.
The Attorney General had said that the practice causes irreparable harm to girl children and needed to be banned.
He had also told the bench that countries like the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia and around 27 African countries have banned this practice.
Earlier, the top court had ordered Kerala and Telangana to be made parties to a PIL that has challenged the practice.
It ordered that states like Kerala and Telangana, where Bohra Muslim community resides, should also be made parties to the litigation and issued notice to them as well. State of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Union Territory Delhi are already party to the case.
The court had on May 8 agreed to examine the issues raised by Ms Tiwari saying that the practice of female genital mutilation was "extremely important and sensitive"
It had issued notices and sought replies from four Union ministries, including the Woman and Child Development, besides Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi where Dawoodi Bohras, who are Shia Muslims, predominantly reside.
Ms Tiwari, in her plea, has sought a direction to the Centre and the states to "impose a complete ban on the inhuman practice" of 'khatna' or "female genital mutilation" (FGM) throughout the country.
The plea has sought a direction to make FGM an offence on which law enforcement agencies can take cognisance on their own. It has also sought to make the offence "non-compoundable and non-bailable" with provision for harsh punishment.
The ministries of Law and Justice, Social Justice and Empowerment have also been made parties to the plea which referred to various conventions of the United Nations, to which India is a signatory.
The practice of female genital mutilation resulted in "serious violations of basic fundamental rights of the victims who in these cases are minors," the plea said.
The FGM is performed "illegally upon girls (between five years and before she attains puberty)" and is against the "UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which is India is a signatory", the plea said, adding the practice caused "permanent disfiguration to the body of a girl child".
"The practice of 'khatna' or 'FGM' or 'Khafd' also amounts to causing inequality between the sexes and constitutes discrimination against women. Since it is carried out on minors, it amounts to serious violation of the rights of children as even minors have a right of security of person, right to privacy, bodily integrity and the freedom from cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment," the plea said.
It is a ritual performed on every girl child within the Dawoodi Bohra religious community without any medical reason and does not have any reference in the Quran.
"It violates the rights of the child and human rights. It also violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is a crime in the Unites States of America under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 and now a crime in Australia and some other countries as well," it claimed.
"There is no law in India banning FGM or Khatna to declare it illegal," it added.