The Supreme Court today admitted a petition seeking permission for Muslim women to enter mosques to offer prayers.
A bench of Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer issued a notice to the center asking it to respond to the PIL filed by a Pune-based couple.
The petition by Yasmeen Zuber Ahmad Peerzade and her husband Zuber Ahmad Nazir Ahmad Peerzade contended that “There is nothing in the Quran and the Hadith that requires gender segregation”. They added that “The act of prohibition of females from entering Mosque is void and unconstitutional as such practices are not only repugnant to the basic dignity of a woman as an individual but also violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution”.
The petitioner pleaded the apex court to declare the present rule of prohibiting women from entering the mosque as illegal.
“Like men, women also have the constitutional rights to offer worship according to their belief. At present, women are allowed to offer prayers at mosques under Jamaat-e-Islami and Mujahid denominations, while they are barred from mosques under the predominant Sunni faction. It is submitted that even in the mosques where women are allowed to worship, there are separate entrances and enclosures for men and women. There should not be any gender discrimination and Muslim women should be allowed to pray in all mosques, cutting across denominations. It is submitted that there is no such gender discrimination in Mecca, the holy city”, the petition read.
Citing the apex court judgment in the Sabarimala case where the court said that “Religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women”, the petition said women are allowed in mosques in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, US, UK, and Singapore.
They claimed there were several women affected by this but were not in a position to approach the court. The petition said, “the alleged act of prohibition of entry to mosque is a violation of the constitutional and fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution as there cannot be any discrimination based on caste, sex, and religion”.
Meanwhile, the bench which was not satisfied with the replies by the counsel for the petitioners told the council that the Supreme Court is only willing to hear the case because of its verdict on Kerala’ Sabarimala temple. “The only reason we may hear you is because of our judgment in the Sabarimala temple case,” the bench said.
The bench also wanted to know if the protection of Article 14, that ensures equality before the law for all, also applies against individuals. The court sought to know if a mosque, temple or church can be treated as a state, adding that Article 14 refers to state action.
Four of the five judges on the bench, then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud ruled against the restriction on women while Justice Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting opinion.