HC allows Shias to intervene to oppose ban on kids in Moharram

The Bombay High Court today allowed applications filed by members of the Muslim community opposing a public interest litigation, seeking ban on participation of children for 'Matam' (mourning) during Moharaam.

Moharram marks the anniversary of the battle of Karbala in which Imam Hussein Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was killed centuries ago. To mourn his killing, participants in the annual procession hit themselves with sharp objects in keeping with the tradition.

Members of Shia sect thronged the court in large numbers today to oppose the relief sought by PIL from the High Court to ban children from participating in Moharram procession.

Police was also called in as a precautionary measure. A bench of Justices V M Kanade and Anuja Prabhudesai, while posting the matter for hearing on December 2, however, asked the litigants to be calm and advised them not to overcrowd the courtroom.
The Judges also decided to allow only lawyers during the next hearing. However, they assured that all the parties in the matter would be heard before a decision is taken.

Advocates representing different sects of the community sought intervention in the matter saying that the participants in a Moharram procession have been performing mourning in this manner since 1400 years and they had a fundamental right to practice their religion under Article 25 of the Constitution.

The Judges allowed the intervening applications and posted the PIL for hearing on December 2. The court had on last occasion expressed concern over the participation of children during the mourning processions of Moharram and asked the State why it was not doing anything to restrain children below 18 years from joining the practice.

The observation from the Judges was made when they were shown photographs of the injured children in the procession. The PIL has sought HC's directions to the state for restraining children from participation, stating they were slashed with sharp objects and knives during the mourning.

The PIL also states that use of objects like knives and blades might lead to infections to both children and adults as the same objects are passed on from one person to another.

The petitioner, activist Faisal Banaraswala, through his lawyer Dr Gunratan Sadavarte, told the HC that participants who inflict bodily injuries on themselves and children in the name of mourning were "bad in law".

The petition said it did not oppose any freedom of religion, but only the act, which led to wounding of the human body, on the grounds of "health, public order, morality and provisions of the Constitution for social welfare". Describing the ritual as horrible and unbearable to observe, the petition states that the processions are carried out in Imam Bada, Abbas Chowk, Bhendi Bazaar and several other areas during the 40-day period of mourning.

"All this takes place in public in the presence of police personnel, including security agencies of the state machinery," the PIL claimed.

The petitioner, therefore, sought a direction to the state government to restrain participants from inflicting injuries to children and themselves.

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