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India high court forbids enforcement of fatwas

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of India [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Monday that fatwas [ISCA backgrounder] issued by shariat courts or muftis had no legal sanctity, meaning that there will be no civil or criminal consequences for the defiance of these legal opinions rendered over issues of Islamic law. The court found that it violated citizens' fundamental rights to impose religious-based opinions on them. Though the issuance of fatwas was not deemed illegal, they are no longer binding or enforceable. Those who are the subject of the fatwas may simply ignore them under Indian law.

In 2011 the Supreme Court of Bangladesh [official website] lifted a 10-year ban [JURIST report] on fatwas, or Islamic religious edicts, but ruled that they cannot be enforced as punishment. The court found that fatwas can only be issued by appropriately educated persons and that no one can be forced to accept a fatwa. The court had declared fatwas illegal in 2001, but in 2010, the court ruled that a person cannot be punished for issuing a fatwa. The ruling was welcomed by scholars and rights activists, but groups urged caution against the impact of the fatwa being declared legal. Clerics criticized the ruling.

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