New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a plea seeking permission for Muslim women to enter mosques to offer prayers and asked the Centre to respond to it. A bench of justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer told the petitioners’ counsel that it would hear the matter only in view of the apex court’s judgement in the Sabrimala temple case.
“The only reason we may hear you is because of our judgement in the Sabarimala case. Otherwise you are not giving us satisfactory answers,” the bench told the counsel appearing for petitioners Yasmeen Zuber Ahmad Peerzade and Zuber Ahmad Nazir Ahmad Peerzade.
On September 28 last year, a five-judge constitution bench of the apex court, in its 4:1 verdict, had paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, saying the ban amounted to gender discrimination.
Besides the Centre, the apex court also issued notices to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Minority Affairs, National Commission for Women, Maharashtra State Board of Waqfs, Central Waqf Council and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, seeking their replies on the plea filed by the Pune-based couple. During the hearing on Tuesday, the apex court asked the petitioners’ lawyer as to whether the right to equality could be invoked against private individuals.
“Can you invoke Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution and claim equal treatment from another human being?” the bench said, adding, “Is a mosque a state? Is a temple a state? Is a church a state?”
The bench also sought to know from the petitioners how the state was involved in this.
“Persons in a mosque are individuals. Where is the state involved in this?” the bench said, adding that the fundamental right to equality can be invoked against the state and not against individuals.
To this, the petitioners’ counsel said mosques in the country were enjoying the benefits and grants extended to them by the state.