The Madras High Court on Friday made it clear that it cannot accept the proceedings initiated by the Makka Masjid Shariat Council, Chennai, in the nature of a judicial forum.
The court disagreed with the submission of the counsel for the Shariat Council that it was “conducting an innocuous exercise of mere conciliation”, saying the use of the word ‘Court’ twice on the display board in the mosque where proceedings were held conveyed to the public at large an impression that it was a “court functioning.”
The first bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M. Sundar, was disposing of a PIL from Abdur Rahman seeking a direction to Home Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu, DGP, and the Commissioner of Police, Chennai City to take immediate measures to stop the functioning of the council and all other similar organisations in the state as a dispute adjudicating body.
The bench, which perused the documents filed by the petitioner, said alleged orders and a board have been placed at a relevant place where proceedings are stated to be carried on and that too, inside a mosque.
“The board displayed clearly showed that what is set out is as if the Shariat Council is a Court. In fact the word ‘Court’ is used twice. Thus the impression which is conveyed to the public at large is of a Court functioning.”
“We have also to take note of the fact that persons visiting the mosque may be from different social status and insofar as the less educated persons may be concerned or women who are vulnerable, certainly the board would give an impression as if some forum in the nature of a judicial forum is working....”
“We are thus unable to agree with the submission of learned senior counsel for Shariat as if it is an innocuous exercise of mere conciliation which is taking place.
“If it is so, it would not have troubled us. What is our concern is the manner in which it is portrayed before the public which does not give an impression as it is only a conciliation proceeding and an endeavor to resolve family disputes amicably.
“The functioning of Shariat council in this format is something which cannot be accepted.”
Referring to the affidavit filed by police, the bench said, “In view of the police authorities, the functioning of the Shariat Council is already stopped and thus no directions in this behalf are necessary now.”
The court had on December 19 said religious places and places of worships were meant only for religious purposes and ordered the government to ensure that judicial forum does not exist in such locations and file a status report in four weeks.
It had directed police to take necessary action to stop these activities and file an affidavit before the court.