Five months after ordering the Maharashtra government to ensure that no woman is denied entry into the Shani Shingapur temple in Ahmednagar, the Bombay High Court has ruled that women cannot be barred from visiting the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai.
On Friday, the Bombay High Court said that the ban imposed on women is contrary to the fundamental rights of a person as provided in Constitution, violating Article 14 (equality before the law), Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty).
"Very happy, this is a great step towards justice for Muslim women," Zakia Soman, the co-petitioner in the case, told ANI. Hina Zaheer, the first woman qazi of Uttar Pradesh, called it a "good and logical judgement."
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, a Muslim women's rights group, moved the Bombay High Court after trustees of the 15th century shrine banned women from coming near the tomb of the male saint located inside the shrine complex.
The Bombay High Court, however, has stayed its order to revoke the ban for six weeks, following a plea by Haji Ali Dargah Trust which wants to challenge its ruling in the Supreme Court, PTI reported. "This is very wrong because seems like Court has taken step without knowing about Sharia law," Maulana Sajid Rashidi, a prominent cleric told ANI.
The Maharashtra government had also opposed the restrictions placed on women in the Haji Ali Dargah, arguing that the trustees had to revoke the ban unless they could show that it has some reference in the Quran.
"The state government and the Haji Ali Dargah Trust will have to take proper steps to ensure safety and security of women entering the dargah," said the two judge-bench of V.M. Kanade and R.M. Dere, PTI reported.
The Bombay High Court's decision today is a boost to the nationwide movement for women to gain access to those places of worship, which have excluded them for centuries.
In April, just days after the Shani Shingapur temple was forced to revoke its centuries-old ban on women, the Supreme Court questioned why the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala does not allow the entry of girls and women who are going through their menstrual cycles.
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