The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra government to give its opinion on a public interest litigation challenging the decision of Haji Ali Trust to ban the entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of the historic Durgah in Mumbai.
As the issue is sensitive, a bench headed by Justice V M Kanade asked Advocate General Srihari Aney to submit arguments on behalf of the state on February 9 stating whether women should be allowed into the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine.
The Supreme Court is seized of a matter about entry of women in Sabarimala temple of Kerala.
This is also for the first time that the state has been asked to give its views on women's entry into a shrine.
On Wednesday, when the PIL came up for hearing, the bench was told that the Advocate General was on his legs before another bench in some other matter. Hence, the PIL on Haji Ali Durgah was posted for arguments on February 9 when the Advocate General has been asked to argue on behalf of the State.
The HC had indicated last month that it would wait for the Supreme Court's ruling on entry of women in Sabarimala temple in Kerala before deciding on the plea in the case of Haji Ali Durgah.
The judges had said both the matters were similar involving the entry of women in the religious shrines and hence they would like to see what view would the Supreme Court take on the issue before they give a ruling on the interim relief sought by the petitioner in the Bombay High Court.
The PIL in Bombay High Court has challenged the decision of Haji Ali Trust to ban the entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of the Durgah. The petition had sought interim relief by way of allowing women into the sanctum sanctorum at the Durgah until the matter is finally decided by the court.
In the Supreme Court, a petition has sought entry for all women and girls in the Sabarimala temple which, as a practice, does not allow girls after attaining puberty to enter the premises. The temple, however, allows only those women to enter who have reached the menopause stage.
The apex court had on January 11 questioned the age-old tradition of banning entry of women of menstrual age group in the Kerala temple, saying this cannot be done under the Constitution.
In the Bombay High Court, a petition raised a similar issue -- that of ban imposed on entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali Durgah. It prohibits women irrespective of their age.
The trustees of Haji Ali Dargah had told the HC earlier that entry of women in close proximity to the grave of a male Muslim saint is considered a grievous sin in Islam.
The HC had then asked the trustees to reconsider their decision, following which the Trust met and reconsidered their stand while taking the same view of banning entry of women in the Durgah.
The Haji Ali Trust argued that the bar on entry is meant to protect women from "uncomfortable situations" and is restricted only to the sanctum sanctorum.
The petitioners, however, claimed that gender justice is inherent in the Quran and the norm at the Dargah contravenes the Hadiths which say that women are not prohibited from visiting tombs.
The restriction emanates from "a very conservative and extremist Salafi ideology" and in future "there may be an order banning the entry of women in the Durgah complex and banning the non-Muslims wholly," the petition argued.
Raju Moray, the petitioners' lawyer, contended that at other Durgahs or shrines women are not banned.
Women can enter the sanctum sanctorum at the historic Makhdoom Shah Durgah in suburban Mahim, he noted.