BY Mirudhula Thambiah
The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday (8) refused to grant leave to proceed for two separate Fundamental Rights (FR) petitions filed by a number of Muslim women challenging the Gazette dated 7 October 2022, which called for applications only from Muslim males to be considered for appointment as Quazis and as Members of the Board of Quazis.
Quazis are judges under the Muslim customary/matrimonial/personal legal system, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA).
Accordingly, the petitioners had wanted the said Gazette notification amended to lift the bar imposed on females to apply.
The court did not provide any reason for the refusal.
Some of the women who have been a part of the struggle to reform the MMDA told The Morning that the petitioners may have gone to the superior court as a last resort. For the past four decades, Muslim women have struggled to bring about full reform to this male-only structure of the administration of justice for Muslims in terms of the MMDA.
One of the reforms that have been urged includes appointing women as Quazis and preventing child marriages.
Meanwhile, The Morning also learnt that although the women are disappointed that even the apex court has not been able to step in to rectify the longstanding discrimination, they now feel that they are free to complain about these discriminations to international forums, as they have virtually exhausted all mechanisms available locally.
The Gazette notification dated 7 October 2022, stated that the applicant for the post of Quazi Judges in terms of the MMDA should be a Muslim male who is a graduate of a recognised university, or a Moulavi holding a certificate from an institution recognised by the Ministry in charge of Muslim religious and cultural affairs, or a holder of the Al-Alim (Arabic language, literature, sayings of the prophet, Islamic law and its fundamentals, the Islamic code of ethics, Islamic history, the Qur’an and its sciences, the Hathees and its sciences, Islamic law and its fundamentals, Islamic civilisation and Islamic theology) certificate issued by the Department of Examinations, or an Attorney-at-Law or a holder of other similar qualifications, or a retired public servant who has held office in the staff grade.
A person currently holding a permanent post in the public service shall not be eligible to apply. The applicant should possess a good knowledge of the Islam religion, should be married and over 40 years of age.