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Can’t quote religious practices for female genital mutilation: SC

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New Delhi: Dubbing female genital mutilation as violative of bodily integrity of a girl child, the Supreme Court on Monday said that religious practices cannot be cited to justify such mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

The observation came from a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in the course of hearing of a PIL by lawyer Sunita Tiwari.

A lot of girls don’t want it. Can it be imposed? Chief Justice Misra asked as Justice Chandrachud said: Why should the bodily integrity of a girl child be violated.

Tiwari had challenged the practice among the Dawoodi Bohras and sought directions to declare it illegal and unconstitutional, non-compoundable and non-bailable offence.

Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal backed the plea for a ban on the practice that forced the girls to undergo genital mutilation.

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Seeking a ban, senior counsel Indira Jaising dubbed it a cruel practice with serious consequences on adult lives of those who underwent the genital mutilation.

However, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi who appeared for the Dawoodi Bohra community defended the practice on religious grounds and asserted that it was protected by Article 25 (guaranteeing right to freedom of religion) and Article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs) of the Constitution.

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In the last hearing on April 20, the Attorney General urged the court to step in and issue directions on the issue as it is a crime punishable with imprisonment of seven years under the existing law.

The next hearing will take place on July 23.