Why Sharia Courts in India?

Lalit Shastri

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has decided to set up Sharia Courts in all districts across India and also activate its Tafheem-e-Shariyat (TeS) committee.

It is a matter of deep concern that at a time when issues like ‘triple talaq and inheritance of property (virasat) are under people’s scanner; the public opinion is tilting heavily in favour of uniform civil code; and there is over-riding consensus for ‘one law’ for all citizens, irrespective of faith and religion, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has announced that it would be setting up Darul-Qaza (Sharia courts) in all districts of the country to resolve issues in line with Islamic laws.

Under the Indian Constitution, the Judiciary administers a common law system of legal jurisdiction. The law of the land has been codified by encompassing all customs, precedents and legislation by people’s representatives.

What’s to be noted is that the courts in India form a hierarchy with the Supreme Court of India at the top.

Once set up, the Sharia court would not be quasi-judicial but extra constitutional as they would not fall within the legal jurisdiction as permitted constitutionally.

To understand the complexity and the chaos one foresees if what’s been projected (by Muslim Personal Law Board) is allowed to turn into reality, let’s look across the border at the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan has the mandate to determine whether or not the laws of the country comply with Islamic Sharia law. There, the Sharia court also has the power to review decisions of the criminal courts and it’s decision is binding on the High Courts and the subordinate judiciary.

Even in Pakistan, the intellectuals have been in the forefront and have criticised the establishment of the Sharia Court as part of a massive process of islamisaton during the military rule of Zia-ul-Haq four decades ago .

Question arises, will the Sharia Courts, proposed to be set up across all districts in India, also review and decide whether the decisions by the courts under the common law judicial system are in tune with the Islamic Sharia law.

India respects all religions but that does not mean we as a nation can allow those manning the Muslim Personal Law Board to take steps aimed at islamisaton of a sizeable population and push it towards the Islamist social system such as what we find in countries like Pakistan and Iran. This cannot be allowed in a secular state.

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