Hyderabad: In absence of any clear rules, there have been several instances of qazis being suspended for various irregularities, including solemnising marriages of foreigners or elderly men with minor girls and even multiple marriages in one go.
The ‘qaza’at’ system in the state is government by the Qazi Act, 1880, which is brief to say the least. "It has only four Sections and has quite a few shortcomings," point out Muslim scholars and intellectuals.
"The Act doesn’t have any rules or guidelines. It fails to clearly demarcate duties or jurisdiction of the qazis or the fees they can collect. More importantly, it fails to lay down any punishment in case of discrepancies," points out Abid Rasool Khan, former chairman, minorities commission.
Till 1939, the Qazi Act, 1880, gave the qazis judicial powers, on par with a judge of the town or city. After amendments in 1939, the power of the qazi was reduced performing marriage.
However, the amendment did not give clarity on whose marriage a qazi could solemnise foreigners or locals, minor or major, etc. "Unless, a clear set of rules are in place, you cannot think of putting an end to violations of the Indian law," said Hamed Mohammed Khan, a social worker.
While the minority welfare department suspends state-appointed qazis whenever any such violation surfaces, it can do little when it comes to hereditary qazis, who insist they do not come under the purview of the government.
The government appoints some qazis under Section 2 of the Qazi Act, 1880, the post of qazis appointed by the erstwhile Asaf Jahi rulers has passed from father to son for generations.
In Greater Hyderabad limits, there are a total of 18 sadr (chief) qazis, including four hereditary. The Qila Golconda Muhammadnagar is the biggest territory, with over 40 nayab qazis working under the sadr qazi - presently, Mohammed Najamuddin.
The sadr qazi appoints these nayab qazis to assist him in his day-to-day affairs. The nayab qazis report to him and submit documents relating to the marriages they had performed in the jurisdiction. A nayab qazi performs the ‘nikaah’ in a majority of the cases and collects the fees from the people.
The Anjuman-e- Qaza’at, (council of qazis) fixes the fee to be charged for performing the nikaah. However, there are frequent complaints of the qazis demanding exorbitant fee for performing nikah, making corrections in the records or other works.
"There is no clarity regarding from whom and how much the fee should be collected, the authorities to be approached to lodge any complaints etc.," says Ilyas Shamshi, member, Reformist Front of India.