Haji Ali Dargah to allow women to enter sanctum sanctorum

Supreme Court: Giving the Haji Ali Dargah Trust two weeks’ time to restore status-quo ante in regard to women pilgrims entering the sanctum sanctorum at par with men, the Court said that in case there is any default or neglect on the part of the Trust in complying with the direction of the Bombay High Court, the respondents-writ petitioners shall be free to approach the High Court for appropriate redress in the matter.

Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the Trust, had submitted that the Trust has not only decided to restore the status-quo ante and permit women to enter the sanctum sanctorum at par with men but passed a specific resolution to that effect on 11th October, 2016. It was also submitted that the Trust has also decided to relay the flooring on both sides of the sanctum sanctorum inside the Dargah meant for men and women pilgrims. The 3-Judge Bench of T. S. Thakur, C.J.  and D. Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ, agreed to the submissions and hence, held that the Trust will be free to relay the flooring and complete the entire process within a period of four months.

The Bombay High Court, had earlier on 26.08.2016, held that the ban imposed by the Trust preventing the entry of women devotees in the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah was violative of Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution. It was held that under the guise of providing security and ensuring safety of women from sexual harassment, the Trust cannot justify the ban and prevent women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah. The Trust is always at liberty to take steps to prevent sexual harassment of women, not by banning their entry in the sanctum sanctorum, but by taking effective steps and making provisions for their safety and security e.g. by having separate queues for men and women. [Haji Ali Dargah Trust v. Dr. Noorjehan Safia Niaz, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1199, decided on 24.10.2016]

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