Lift veil for voter ID, SC tells burqa-clad women

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Agantrope, Jan 23, 2010.

  1. Agantrope

    Agantrope Senior Member Senior Member

    Nov 1, 2009
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    W DELHI: The Supreme Court has said that burqa-clad women cannot be issued voter identity cards, rejecting the argument that religion prohibits
    them from lifting their veils.

    Counsel for petitioner M Ajam Khan had contended that asking `purdah-nashin' women to lift their veil for being photographed would amount to sacrilege as their photographs would be seen by many men working as polling agents and electoral officials.

    "It will hurt their religious sentiments and the Election Commission must not insist on `purdah-nashin' women to be photographed for inclusion of their name in the electoral rolls," said the counsel arguing before a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice Deepak Verma.

    The order comes at a time when a controversy triggered by the ban on full-length burqas has roiled France, attracting protests from clerics.

    The argument put forward on behalf of petitioners failed to impress the court. The Bench said: "If you have such strong religious sentiments, and do not want to be seen by members of public, then do not go to vote. You cannot go with burqa to vote. It will create complications in identification of voters."

    Referring to the Madras High Court order upholding the EC's insistence for a photograph without veils, the Bench said that the elections have been conducted without staying the HC order and that those who do not comply with rules on voter identification not be allowed to vote.

    Appearing for the EC, counsel Meenakshi Arora said though electoral rolls were being prepared as per the judgment of the HC, it would be better if the SC gave a verdict that would help reach a closure on the issue.

    When the petitioners again insisted on protection of religious sentiments, the Bench said: "The photograph is for identification of a voter. If someone comes to vote in a burqa and the photograph was also taken with veil covering the face, how would anyone identify the voter?"

    Explaining that right to vote was only a statutory right and not a fundamental right, the Bench said: "Right to contest an election is an extension of the right to vote. Can anyone contest an election saying photograph of her face be not taken? Can she be photographed in a burqa with a veil and yet contest an election?"

    Though the Bench made its mind absolutely clear, it agreed to a detailed hearing on the issue at a later date.

    The Madras High Court had in a 2006 verdict held that faith and practice were on two different planes, saying there was nothing wrong on the part of the EC to insist on a photograph of the face of a `purdah-nashin' woman for the purpose of preparing electoral rolls.

  3. enlightened1

    enlightened1 Member of The Month JANUARY 2010

    Aug 14, 2009
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    The Paradise Island

    If having photographs on election identity cards and electoral rolls defies religious tenets and betrays sentiments of a section of Muslim women, it is for them to decide whether to vote or not.

    “If they are so religious, don’t vote,” a bench of chief justice KG Balakrishnan and justice Deepak Verma remarked on Friday. They were hearing an appeal by Tamil Nadu’s (TN’s) Ajmal Khan against the election commission’s (EC’s) mandate to carry photo identity cards for voting.

    Khan also raised brows at EC publishing electoral rolls with photos of Muslim women.

    “What these women would do if they were to contest elections,” the bench asked Khan’s counsel V Balaji, pointing out that during elections, posters carrying photographs of candidates are put up all over a constituency.

    Balaji said it was against the tenets of Islam for a Muslim woman to get photographed without a veil (burqa).He argued that the Holy Quran laid down that Muslim women wear burqa and cover their faces.

    The face of a Muslim woman can only be seen by her husband or close relatives, he said.

    As such, he said, EC should not take photographs of Muslim women without veils or unveiled photographs should not be given to any other person.

    “Such a law violates Article 25 of the Constitution that guarantees right to practice any religion of one’s choice,” the counsel said, seeking to unveil a constitutional issue hidden in the case.

    Counsel for Tamil Nadu Election Commission Balaji Srinivasan said Ajmal Khan wanted to create confusion at the ground level.

    He said the voter identity cards and electoral rolls he had objected to had been prepared in Puducherry, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and the rest of the country. Nowhere did Muslim women object to the EC order, Srinivasan said.

    Moreover, Muslim women get photographed for passports, he said. In 2006, the Madras high court had dismissed Khan’s petition filed after EC started printing electoral rolls with photographs of voters for the Madurai Central assembly constituency.
  4. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 28, 2009
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    Excellent must congratulate the petitioner for bring this serious matter to the attention of the judiciary(does our judiciary have any other serious issues to deal with at the moment ?).The petitioner should not be disheartened by this set back and must continue his struggle until all Muslim women have been disenfranchised from their right to vote or stand in any civic election,or for that matter until every Muslim woman has been excused from presenting themselves for such trivialities like having a photograph taken,necessary for public services.

    Since there is a constant refrain about lack of proper grooming of leadership in the Indian Muslim community,i wonder which party will be the first to offer our savant petitioner a ticket in the next elections.
  5. RPK

    RPK Indyakudimahan Senior Member

    Jun 29, 2009
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    13° 4'60.00"N 80°16'60.00"E
    The Hindu : News / National : Muslim groups support Court’s observation on burqa

    A number of Muslim groups on Saturday backed the Supreme Court’s rejection of the argument that women cannot be asked to lift face-covering veils for voter ID photographs, and said Islamic law gives permission for them to be clicked under special needs.

    “I am totally with the Supreme Court order. When we have no objection to photos for passport for going to Haj, why should we object to the same for this. This should not be made an emotional issue,” Delhi Minority Commission Chairman and All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Faruqui said.

    When it was pointed out that some Muslim clerics are opposing the observation, Mr. Faruqui said he will convince the community about the need for photo voter IDs adding, “I am sure they will understand the importance of having them.”

    The Supreme Court on Friday said religious sentiments should not be exploited to oppose the making of electoral rolls with photographs. It was hearing a petition which argued that asking women observing ‘purdah’ to lift their veil for being photographed for voter IDs would be sacrilegious.

    “Though purdah is compulsory for women under the Shariat, Islamic law gives conditional permission under special circumstances,” senior member of the All India Muslim Personal law board and Naib Imam of Idgah, Lucknow, Khalid Rasheed Forangimahal told PTI.

    Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind secretary and spokesperson Abdul Hamid Nomani also said Islam allows Muslim women to show their face if there is specific need.

    “What will be the relevance of a photo I-card with burqa. This is not a general situation in which purdah is essential.

    “Some people mix up the special situations with the general ones. Religion gives permission for it in need. This should not be projected as a religious issue,” Mr. Nomani said.

    Jamaat-e-Islami secretary Mujtaba Farooqi said, “I think what the Supreme Court said is correct. Documents of the country's citizens should be prepared and the provision of photos should be there for making of such basic documents.”

    Mr. Farooqi maintained that even those who support purdah relax it for such necessary documents and Muslim seminaries have issued fatwa that photos of Muslim women can be taken if they are “need-based.”

    Shahi Imam of Fatehpuri Masjid Mufti Mukarram Ahmed said he does not find anything wrong with the Supreme Court observation.

    “There is nothing wrong in what the SC said. Shariyat, though, makes purdah essential for Muslim women, it permits showing their face if there is any need or compulsion. If a woman is seriously ill, she can not observe purdah from her doctor. Getting photographed for election I-card or any such necessary documents is permitted,” he said.

    Citing the case of Haj, Firangimahali said in Lucknow that women do get themselves clicked for their passports and getting photographed for ensuring that they get their right to vote also falls in the same category of special circumstances.

    He, however, had reservations over reported stern views of the apex court that “if religious sentiments are so strong then do not go to vote.” Comments on religious issues should be in keeping with the sensitivity of the matter, he said.

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