The Madras High Court on Monday banned all “unauthorised Sharia courts” from functioning on the premises of mosques across Tamil Nadu, reported ANI. The bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sundar said all places of worship are meant for religious purposes only, directing the state government to ensure that these bodies are not allowed to operate. It has also asked for a status report within four weeks.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by England-based Abdul Rahman, who alleged that a Makka Masjid Shariat council was functioning like a regular court from a mosque on Chennai’s Anna Salai road. He claimed that the mosque dealt with property and matrimonial disputes and even passed divorce orders, according to The Times of India. In his petition, Rahman said the Shariat council had forced him to sign a letter of talaq, as well.

Counsel for the petitioner A Sirajudeen argued that the PIL was filed “to safeguard the interests of a large number of innocent Muslims”. He added that the council had managed to make people of the community believe that it functioned according to the Sharia law.

Sirajudeen further told the high court that the presiding officers in these councils wore robes like judges in court, albeit in a different colour. Once a case is up for hearing at these councils, the parties concerned are summoned to the court through phone calls, reported The Financial Express.

Shariat is a set of laws derived from the Quran and Hadiths, which are binding on Muslims. In 2014, the Supreme Court had said that decisions handed out by such Sharia courts did not have any legal status.