In a significant judgement, a bench of three judges of the Supreme Court of India has overruled a high court order restraining issuance of ‘fatwa’ by Dar Al-Quaza and Dar Al-Ifta in Bhopal.

The judgement is bound to have a far reaching effect as it would deter the Indian judiciary at various levels from interfering in the religious matters of Muslims. The order is expected to give relief to Muslims. It will also affect the legal position of fatwa in many other Muslim minority countries such as Australia.

In an earlier judgement in the case of Vishwa Lochan Madan, the Supreme Court had held: “In our opinion, one may not object to issuance of fatwa on a religious issue or any other issue so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of individuals guaranteed under the law.”

The Supreme Court said the high court judgement shall be treated as substituted by the above law laid down by it.

The three-member bench comprised former Chief Justice M. Lodha, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman.

“A fatwa is an opinion, only an expert is expected to give. It is not a decree, nor binding on the court or the State or the individual. It is not sanctioned under our constitutional scheme. But this does not mean that existence of Dar Al-Quaza or for that matter practice of issuing fatwas are themselves illegal,” the premier court clarified.

The judgement said it is informal justice delivery system with an objective of bringing about amicable settlement between the parties. It is within the discretion of the persons concerned either to accept, ignore, or reject it. However, as the fatwa gets strength from the religion; it causes serious psychological impact on the person intending not to abide by that.