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Markandey Katju

Can a law made in 8th century Arabia still continue in the 21st century: Markandey Katju on Sharia court

New Delhi | Former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju on Thursday said that Society has totally changed in these 1400 years since sharia was made. So sharia is totally outdated today, like Manusmriti, and must be replaced by a common civil code for all communities, as in modern countries.

On a Facebook post, the former chairman of Press council of India spoke about the praposal by All India Muslim Personal Law Board for setting up sharia courts ( dar ul qaza ) in all districts in India. Katju said that the President of the Board Maulana Nadvi said decisions of Islamic courts are binding on all Muslims, and it is a sin to challenge them while on the other hand, the secretary of the Board, Zafaryab Gilani has said that dar ul qaza are not courts at all but mediation bodies, and they cannot give binding verdicts, as held by the Supreme Court in Vishwa Lochan Madan vs Union of India.

“Even assuming that their decisions are not binding, the fact however remains that dar ul qaza is presided over by a Muslim cleric, a qazi, and his verdict, even if not binding in theory, in practice will put tremendous pressure on the parties, particularly on women, to accept it. This is because these Muslim clerics have a strong hold on the Muslim masses, and what they say cannot be lightly rejected,” wrote Katju.

Citing an example about the problems of the Muslim women, Katju wrote, “If a Muslim husband marries a second wife, and the first wife complains to the dar ul qaza, the Qazi will say polygamy is permitted in sharia, and so long as your husband treats you equally you must accept the second wife and keep living with your husband.”

He further added that if a divorced Muslim couple want to remarry, someone may complain to the qazi of the dar ul qaza that they cannot remarry without nikah halala ( that is, the woman must first marry another man, have sex with him, and the second husband must divorce the woman, and only then can the couple remarry )and the qazi may order accordingly. Even if this order is legally not binding, it may in practice prevent the couple from remarrying out of fear of being ostracised or even attacked by local community members.

Markandey Katju also questioned that whether sharia, a law made in Arabia in the 7th or 8th century can continue in the 21st century ? Law has to change with change in social conditions. How can a law of 7th century apply in the 21st century ?

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