Recently, the High Court of Bombay has pronounced a judgement on the Public Interest Litigation filed by Dr Noorjehan Safia Niaz and Zakia Soman (co-founders of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan) over the issue of restriction on entry of the woman inside sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali Dargah. The court in its judgement has held that such a restriction is contrary to the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the constitution and “it is also the duty of the State to ensure the safety and security of the women at such places. The State is equally under an obligation to ensure that the fundamental rights are protected and that the right of access into the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah is not denied to women.”
Judiciary has played an important role in India in securing rights of the people. The very judgement of the High Court of Bombay in the Haji Ali Dargah case has paved a way for breaking barriers imposed on the religious freedoms of women in India. The judgement provides the solution to the issue of entry of women in Haji Ali Dargah but also it has touched upon the aspects of religious freedom of women and gender equality.
Article 15 of the Constitution of India states that;
“No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to:
(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or
(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.”
Article 25 (1) of the Constitution of India provides for Freedom of Conscience and Free Profession, Practice and Propagation of Religion which states that;
“Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.”
Even after decades of independence, women of India are still struggling for gender equality and religious equality. The constitution makers while framing the constitution have guaranteed certain rights which are prescribed to all the citizens of India irrespective of their gender, but we can observe that there are many prejudices over the treatment of male and female in the Indian society. Indian society is patriarchal in nature, therefore the restrictions imposed on the freedoms of women can be observed in the society.
Lately, we can observe that there are many incidences where women are actually raising voice against the illogical and unjustifiable restrictions imposed over them from decades. We can actually observe a shift in the society where women in India were confined to household chores, now women in India are educated, independent and are at par with men in all the fields. Now, since due to this shift the religious barriers imposed upon women are questioned on the ground of human rights, constitutional rights, law and morality.
In order to have development in the society and in order to progress it is important that every individual must be guaranteed with inalienable rights as a human being, which are to be respected and upheld by each individual and each authority. The citizens of a nation, irrespective of it being a male or a female has a right to live and to have religious freedom as basic human rights.
The precedent set forth by the Bombay High Court has paved a way for liberation of woman from the dreadlocks of superstition and religious barriers in India. Therefore, now we may hope to observe development of gender equality and religious freedoms in India.
SonamSaigal, “Woman can enter Haji Ali sanctum, rules HC”, 27th August 2016, The Hindu Newspaper.
(Available at:http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/bombay-high-court-verdict-on-women-entering-haji-ali-dargah/article9035710.ece), Last accessed on:9th Sept 2016.
Article 15, Constitution of India.
Article 25, Constitution of India.