A significant majority of Muslims in India support having access to their religious courts for settlement of family disputes involving inheritance or divorce cases, a Pew Research study has found.
The study by the American think-tank reveals that both Muslims and Hindus prefer to live religiously segregated lives when it comes to matters of marriage, friendship and some elements of public life.
Three-quarters of Muslims in India (74%) support having access to the existing system of Islamic courts, which handle family disputes (such as inheritance or divorce cases), in addition to the secular court system,” the study said.
It added that a majority of Muslims who favour separate religious courts say that religious diversity benefits India (59%), compared with somewhat fewer of those who oppose religious courts for Muslims (50%).
“Muslims’ desire for religious segregation does not preclude tolerance of other groups – again similar to the pattern seen among Hindus,” it said.
The study said that 30% of Hindus support Muslims having access to their religious court for settlement of family disputes.
As of 2021, there are roughly 70 Islamic courts or dar-ul-qaza in India, with the majority of them in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
The report noted that some Indians have expressed concern that the rise of Islamic/Sharia courts could undermine the Indian judiciary, because a subset of the population is not bound to the same laws as everyone else.
The ruling BJP has been a vocal proponent of the Uniform Civil Code – a common law for all Indians. It is one of their main poll promises. Recently, Union minister Rajnath Singh reiterated the government’s promise of introducing a common civil code.