In a landmark judgement, the Bombay high court on Friday struck down a ban on the entry of women into the inner sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah.
This verdict is a welcome move in a country where female worshippers are still barred in most religious places.
However, women cannot avail of the order just yet – the trust that runs the shrine wants to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court, so Friday’s verdict is suspended or put on hold for six weeks.
The court said the ban on women’s entry violated fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and was against Article 14 (equality before law), Article 15 (no discrimination on sex, gender, religion etc) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty).
The court directed the Haji Ali trust to grant access inside the shrine to “women at par with men.”
The decision by a bench of justices VM Kanade and Revati Mohite-Dere came on a petition by a Muslim women’s foundation.
The Maharashtra government had also earlier told the court that the Haji Ali Dargah trust cannot ban the entry of women from the shrine’s inner sanctum.
The Maharashtra government had said that offering prayers should be open to both men and women, asserting that the ban by the Haji Ali trust cannot override the right to equality.
The Haji Ali trust counsel, however, had argued that the inner sanctum was crowded and unsafe for women.