Modifying a High Court verdict declaring fatwa (religious edicts) illegal, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that properly educated persons can issue fatwa but cannot force anyone to accept it.

“No punishment including physical violence or mental torture in any form can be imposed or implicated on any body in pursuance of fatwa,” the court said in its verdict.

The apex court said properly educated persons can issue fatwa on religious matters. But it can only be accepted voluntarily. Any coercion or undue influence in any form to force it on anyone is forbidden, the SC ruled categorically.

A six-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque came up with the verdict after allowing in part two separate appeals filed against the HC verdict that declared fatwa illegal.

On January 1, 2001, the HC declared all punishments imposed in the name of fatwa illegal. The verdict came following a hearing on a suo moto rule issued earlier by the court after a newspaper report on Hilla marriage (marriage with a third person).

Human rights organisations– Bangladesh Mahila Parishad and Ain O Salish Kendra– argued against fatwa before the HC.

The same year Mufti Mohammad Toyeeb and Abul Kalam Azad filed two appeals with the SC against the HC verdict.

The SC on March 1 this year started hearing the long overdue appeal.

Source: Daily Star – 12.05.2011