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Supreme Court Orders Not To Issue Voter I-Card For Women Wearing Burqa

PTI 24 Jan 2010, 9:08:11 IST

The Supreme Court  has ordered that burqa-clad women cannot be issued voter identity cards by the Election Commission. The court has rejected the argument that a particular religion prohibits burqa-clad women from lifting their veils while getting themselves photographed, reports The Times of India.
Counsel for petitioner Mohammed Azam Khan had contended that asking 'pardaanashin' women to lift their veil for being photographed would amout to religious sacrilege as their photogaphs would be seen by many men working as polling agents and electoral officials.
"It will hurt thei religious sentiments and the election commission must not insist on 'puradh-nasheen' 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 oder comes ata time when a controversy triggered by the ban on burqa has roiled France, triggering vehement protests from clerics.
The argument on behalf of the petitioners failed to impress the Bench. The Bench said: "
If you have such strong religious sentiments, and do not want to be seen bymembers of the public, then do not go to vote. You cannot go with burqa to vote. It will create complications inidentification of voters".
Referring to the Madras High Court order uphoding the election commission's insistence for a photograph without veil, the SC Bench said that the elections have beeen conducted without staying the HC order and that those who do not comply with ruleson voter identification should not be allowed to vote.
Appearing for the Election Commission, 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 closure.
When petitioners insisted on protection of religious sentiments, the bench said: " 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?"
Meanwhile, eminent Muslim scholars and community leaders have urged the cmmunity not to oppose the Supreme Court ruling  sayig that face veil was not mandated by the Holy Quran and it should not be portrayed as a contravention of the scriptures. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi  has said women could go to vote without veil and if the law of the land demands women must show their faces in certain circumstances like immigration checks and at polling booths,
However senior cleric Maulana Abu Zafar Hassan Nadvi says the court should not have made it mandatory for the burqa-clad women to lift the veil at the ime of voting. "In the name of liberating women we cannot accept something which goes against the grain of Islamic values. In public, theymust not be forced to lift the veil".

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, 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." 

"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. PTI