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HC judgement on women's entry in Haji Ali on June 28

The Bombay High Court on Thursday said it would pronounce on June 28 its verdict on a petition filed by a women's group challenging ban on entry of women inside the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali dargah in the city.

A division bench of justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite-Dhere asked the petitioner and trust officials to submit orders, if any, passed by the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court in similar places, including Sabrimala and Shanisingnapur temples, where entry of woman had been banned. The bench said it would study the cases and pass an order accordingly.

The court has reserved its judgement on the plea filed by two women, Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz, challenging the ban on women's entry in the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah. The PIL states that gender justice is inherent in Quran and the decision contravenes the Hadith, which proves that there is no prohibition on women visiting graves. The Maharashtra government has told the court that women should be barred from entering the inner sanctorum of Haji Ali dargah only if it is so enshrined in the Quran.

The ban on women's entry cannot be justified if it is on the basis of an expert's interpretation of the Quran, the then Maharashtra Advocate General Shrihari Aney had argued. On whether the court can interfere in the customs and traditions of a religion, Aney had said, "If the religion (Islam) is going to fall if women are allowed entry, then the ban should prevail over fundamental rights."

The dargah trust had defended its stand saying that it is referred in Quran that allowing women close proximity to the dargah of a male saint is a grievous sin.

Advocate Shoaib Memon had said, "Women are not allowed inside mosques in Saudi Arabia. They are given a separate place to pray. We (trust) have not barred women. It is simply regulated for their safety. The trust not only administers the Dargah but also manages the affairs of religion."

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