Dhaka: The Bangladesh Supreme Court has sought the opinion of Islamic scholars on the status and application of fatwas, or religious edicts, in the country.
Taking up a 10-year-old appeal, the court on Thursday asked the director general of the Islamic Foundation to nominate five scholars and place their names before the court by March 21.
The six-member Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque directed that the scholars place written statements on fatwas to the court.
They could also appear before the court to make verbal statement on the issue.
The apex court passed the order on an appeal challenging a January 01, 2001 high court verdict that declared all punishments imposed in the name of fatwas illegal.
The matter went to the Supreme Court following protests against the high court judgment.
An Islamic Republic with predominantly Muslim population, Bangladesh has witnessed several cases of priests at mosques issuing fatwas trying to deliver informal justice.
In one such fatwa issued last month during an arbitration by the clergy, Hena, a rape victim, was ordered 100 lashes, while the alleged rapist was at large. The girl fainted half-way through the flogging and later died. The high court has reopened that case.
Human rights bodies and a section of the media have decried the use of fatwa by influential offenders against women, citing the high court verdict.
In his submission on Thursday, counsel for the appellant, Abdur Razzak, told the apex court that the fatwa was a fundamental right of Islamic scholars, Star Online reported.
"Fatwa is an institution, which is an inseparable part of Islamic jurisprudence," he said, adding that the abusers of fatwa can be punished after bringing them to the book of law.