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SC stays high court order allowing women in inner sanctum of Haji Ali

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The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the high court order after the Haji Ali dargah management said that it will come out with a progressive stand in two weeks.

However, during the brief hearing, a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice A M Khanwilkar expressed hope that the Haji Ali Dargah Trust, which has challenged the high court judgement, “will take a stand which is progressive”.

The court adjourned the matter at the request of senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam who appeared for the trust.

“The order of the high court granting stay on operation of its judgement to continue till the next date of hearing on October 17,” the bench said.

Subramaniam assured the bench that he was on a “progressive mission” and said all holy books and scriptures promoted equality and nothing which is regressive in character should be suggested.

“Be it Islam or Hinduism, we need to look progressively at customs,” the apex court observed, adding that similar problem, a ban on entry of women in inner sanctorum of the temple, exists in Sabarimala in Kerala too.

On October 4, the Haji Ali Dargah Trust moved Supreme Court challenging the Bombay high court order lifting the ban on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the renowned Muslim shrine in south Bombay.

The high court on August 26 had held that the ban imposed by the Dargah Trust, prohibiting women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah, contravened Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution and said women should be permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum like men.

The ruling came after a public interest litigation had urged lifting restriction on women inside the inner sanctum which houses the mazaar or tomb of the saint.

The ban was imposed in 2012 by the Haji Ali Dargah Trust. The bench held that it is in contravention of Articles 14 (Right to Life), 15 (Prohibition of discrimination) and 25 (Right to practice religion) of the Constitution of India. It directed the status quo ante to be restored and women be allowed entry on par with men. The state and the trust running the Dargah should take steps for safety of women.

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