Ban on women at Haji Ali shrine sanctum sanctorum to continue, for now

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New Delhi, Oct 7 (IANS) Women will continue to be barred from entering the sanctum sanctorum of Sufi saint Haji Ali’s Dargah in Mumbai, as the Supreme Court on Friday continued with the interim order of the Bombay High Court.

The Bombay High Court, while ruling that women can go up to the ‘mazaar’ of saint Haji Ali, had put the operation of its verdict on hold, giving time to the Haji Ali Trust — managing the shrine affairs — to approach the Supreme Court.

Issuing notice to Noorjehan Niaz and other, a bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said that the Bombay High Court’s interim that put on hold the operation of its own verdict will continue till October 17, when the matter will come up for hearing.

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The court continued with the interim order as senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the Haji Ali Dargah Trust, said that it was working to find out ways to accommodate the women devotees.

He told the court that woman were not barred from entering the area around the Dargah but only the sanctum sanctorum.

The High Court had, on August 26, permitted the entry of women right up to the restricted ‘mazaar’ area, following a public interest litigation by Noorjehan Niaz, Zakia Soman and others.

The PIL had challenged a 2012 decision by the Trust, prohibiting women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine, built in 1431, on the grounds that “women wearing blouses with wide necks bend at the ‘mazaar’, thus showing their breasts”, which was against Islam.

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The Trust had contended before the High Court that the ban was “for the safety and security of women”. It had also said that earlier, it was “not aware of the provisions of Shariat and therefore had taken steps to rectify the same”.

The shrine, located on the rocks off the Worli seashore, houses the grave of Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a Muslim saint revered by all communities.



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