The Supreme Court on Friday put on hold the Uttarakhand High Court order imposing a blanket ban on the issuance of 'fatwas' by the religious bodies.
The bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta stayed the High Court order on a petition by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind challenging the High Court order.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandra, appearing for Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, told the bench that 'fatwa' is arguably one of Islam's most misunderstood words. "Fatwas are not a restrictive or punitive device as is often made out to be."
The High Court had imposed a blanket ban on the 'fatwas' after it took suo motu cognizance of newspaper reports which said that a panchayat in Haridwar had asked a 15-year-old rape victim and her family to compromise with the accused or leave the village.
Taking note of the diktat of the panchayat, the High Court had said: "The panchayat, instead of sympathising with the rape victim, had the audacity to extern the family from the village. Fatwa is nothing but extra-constitutional adventurism, not permissible under the Constitution."
The PIL filed by the petitioner organisation had contended that the "High Court has erred in treating the said a 'farman' as a 'fatwa' because even from the perusal of the news item it transpires that the 'farman' issued by the panchayat was neither a 'fatwa' nor it was issued by the Darul Ifta or a Mufti on any religious issue.
Quoting Maulana Abdul Khalik Madrasi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, the petition states that a 'fatwa' is an "advice or an opinion".
"It is given in response to questions asked by an individual on a personal or religious matter. It is not binding. Whether the person who sought the advice follows it or not is his or her wish," said the petition quoting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, Maulana Abdul Khalik Madrasi.
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