The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Uttarakhand High Court’s ban on religious organisations issuing fatwas, Bar and Bench reported. Fatwas are legal opinions provided under Islamic law by a Muslim cleric.

In August, the High Court had described fatwas as illegal and unconstitutional.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta were hearing an appeal filed by Islamic organisation Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind against the High Court’s order. The organisation claimed that the High Court had “misinterpreted and misapplied” the Supreme Court’s order in the Vishwa Lochan Madan case.

In Vishwa Lochan Madan vs Union of India & others, the Supreme Court had held that a fatwa is not a decree and is neither binding on anyone nor enforceable. The Uttarakhand court had delivered its verdict in a case in which the family of a woman who was raped was banished from Laskar village in Haridwar on the basis of a fatwa. An advocate had drawn the court’s attention to a media report about it.

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

The appellant told the Supreme Court that a vice chancellor of the Darul Uloom Deoband had said a fatwa is, “an advice or an opinion given in response to questions asked by an individual on a personal or religious matter. It is not binding on anyone. Whether the person who sought the advice follows it or not is his or her wish.”

The top court issued notices to the High Court and the state government on the matter.