Saturday, August 20, 2005

Cheap justice ....

In Qazi courts, justice is cheap

MUMBAI: In a tiny first-floor office, off the teeming Bhendi Bazaar's Mughal Masjid lane, sits burqa-clad Shagufta Ansari.

Across the table is seated the bearded, bespectacled Qazi Abdul Ahad. This 26-year-old man, in a kurtapyjama and skull cap, may grant Ansari, 30, what the country's judiciary has failed to: it may free her from a marital hell. Or so believes the young woman.

The order, expected in a few months, will be swift and according to the Islamic principles of divorce. This is a story from one of hundreds of Darul Qazas (Sharia courts) in the country which the Supreme Court wants to investigate.

On Tuesday, acting on a petition, it issued notices to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Darul Uloom Deoband and eight state governments about these "parallel courts". Aided by dozens of tomes, including the 900-year-old compilation of fatwas, 'Fatwa-e Shami' by Allama Ibne Abidin, and his own knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence, Qazi Ahad dispenses justice — a job the petitioners think is "extra-constitutional".

Qazi Abdul Ahad, who has an office in Bhendi Bazaar's Mughal Masjid lane, earns Rs 9,000 per month and claims he is the highest paid qazi in the country.


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