The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to respond to a plea seeking that Muslim women be allowed to enter mosques across the country claiming that such restrictions were "unconstitutional" and violative of the right to equality and gender justice.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, hearing the matter through video-conferencing, agreed to hear the petition which has sought setting aside of directions or "fatwa" restraining Muslim women from entering the mosques.
Besides the Centre, the bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, issued notices to others including the Ministry of Minorities Affairs, National Commission for Women and All India Muslim Personal Law Board and sought their responses on the plea.
The plea, filed by a Pune-based Muslim women, has referred to the constitutional provisions and said there should not be any discrimination against any citizen on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
"It is very unfortunate that not a single political party or a chief minister, women included, has thought of advancing the interest of Muslim women by providing them access to mosques that receive monetary aid from taxpayers' money," the plea has claimed.
The petition has alleged that the legislature has failed to ensure the dignity and equality of women in general and Muslim women in particular.
"Despite the observation of this court for the past few decades, the goal of Uniform Civil Code remains an elusive constitutional goal that the courts have fairly refrained from enforcing through directions and the legislature has dispassionately ignored it," it claimed.
The plea alleged that Muslim women are being discriminated against as they are not allowed to enter and pray in the main prayer hall of mosques in violation of Articles 14 (equality before law) and 2l (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.
It has sought a direction to permit women to pray in the 'musalla' "without being separated by a barrier, including in the front and in mixed-gender congregational lines".
It has sought to declare the practice of prohibiting entry of Muslim women in mosque in India as illegal, unconstitutional and being violative of constitutional rights.
"There is a well-established proliferation in media now a days about the ''burqa clad'' who are thoroughly victimised and need great protection measures through the liberal rights discourse," it said.
The plea said there is nothing in the Holy Quran and the Hadith that requires gender segregation.
It said that a life of dignity and equality is the most sacrosanct fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution and it prevails above all other rights available under the laws of India.
It said that women are allowed to enter mosques that have a separate space for them, but most mosques in India do not have this facility.