The Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday declared fatwas – legal opinions provided under Islamic law by a Muslim cleric – illegal and unconstitutional. The court was hearing a case in which a fatwa was issued against the family of a woman who was raped, banishing them from Laskar village in Haridwar, PTI reported.

The court said that no religious body, statutory panchayat or group of people in Uttarakhand can issue a fatwa, because it “infringes upon the statutory rights, fundamental rights, dignity, status, honour and obligation of individuals”.

“The panchayat, instead of sympathising with the woman, had the audacity to remove the family from the village,” the division bench of acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sharad Kumar Sharma said, according to the Hindustan Times. “Fatwa is nothing but extra-constitutional adventurism, not permissible under the Constitution.”

The court asked Haridwar Senior Superintendent of Police Krishna Kumar to provide security to the family in the village.

The court took up the case when advocate Vivek Shukla brought a media report about the fatwa to its notice. On Thursday, the bench ordered that the matter be registered as a public interest litigation, and criminal proceedings begun against panchayat members who issued the fatwa.

Amar Chand Sharma, the police officer in charge of Laskar village, told the court that the accused are absconding.